Having a job while in college is difficult enough. Add being in a pandemic, and it’s even more daunting. However, Florida State University senior Hannah Merceron set out in the global health crisis to expand her learning. As someone aspiring to enter the medical field after college, Hannah got to learn about different viruses and how they mutate over time from firsthand experience. In August 2021, the biochemistry major started working at CVS Pharmacy in Tallahassee as a certified pharmacy technician filling prescriptions and distributing coronavirus therapies.
Her Campus (HC): How are the general work conditions at CVS different now from before the pandemic from what you know?
Hannah Merceron (HM): The biggest change is masks. We don't necessarily have to wear them, but they are highly encouraged to protect ourselves and others. Another big thing is that we distribute the antiviral for COVID, so we have a lot of COVID patients coming in, and we’re doing a lot of COVID testing.
HC: Do you see any of those changes sticking around after COVID?
HM: I can see masks sticking around when people are sick, and I can see that being either a requirement or something that's suggested. Otherwise, I don't see it being a big change after COVID, and I don't see anything else sticking around but masks.
HC: What has demand for coronavirus therapies been like?
HM: It depends; there are a lot of immunocompromised patients picking it up. It’s not necessarily for everyone who has COVID, but I’d say we give out three or four medications to patients a day.
HC: What has demand been like for COVID tests during your time at CVS? Do you administer them?
HM: It's fluctuated. During the holidays, demand is a lot higher because before trying to travel, you need those tests. Right now, it's very low but every time a new variant comes out, it spikes. I think the [CVS] Minute Clinic, which is like a satellite store, does testing, but we don't.
HC: What has demand been like for the COVID vaccine and booster shots during your time at CVS? Do you administer these?
HM: That fluctuates too. I'd say around the holidays and whenever a new variant comes out, it spikes. But recently, now that things have plateaued a little bit, it’s not very high and there hasn't been a new one to get. I can give them out, but I don't.
HC: What personal struggles have you dealt with working in a pharmacy during the pandemic?
HM: The major struggle has been noncompliance with patients. We always tell them not to come inside if they have COVID, but they still come inside and then we get sick. In general, people are less patient during this time because everyone's kind of sick, getting sick or knows someone who is sick, and we face supply issues. It's hard to meet people’s needs, and dealing with upset customers and patients isn't fun.
HC: Have you had any little wins or triumphs that you’ve learned through this?
HM: Yes, the big one is patience. I have only worked customer service jobs since I was 16, but this is the most my patience has been put to the test. Also, learning about new viruses and how they work is really cool.
HC: What are your general thoughts about working in the healthcare field during the pandemic?
HM: It's not for the faint of heart. I would say there are more in-contact jobs that are much more stressful; people working in the hospital face a lot more than I do. Still, it's a good learning experience and it builds character.
HC: How has this changed your views on it or your expectations for it after college?
HM: Originally, I wanted to go into retail pharmacy, and since that's where I work right now, I've changed my mind a little bit. I'm not expecting another pandemic to pop up during my lifetime, but this job shows that people often treat anyone who works in the public sector horribly.
HC: Do you have any final thoughts about working in the pharmacy during a pandemic?
HM: I kind of wish I started before the pandemic and had time to adjust, but I still like it. I stand by my decision to work there.