Peter Rice of Community Pharmacy NI: The pandemic has had me glued to the pharmacy, not so much the sofa

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Peter Rice, newly-appointed chair of Community Pharmacy NI

 Peter Rice
Gail Bell

Up and at it – what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?

I have three kids and my wife is expecting, so mornings can be really busy... The schools have staggered drop-off times due to Covid-19, so that takes up a lot of my time in the mornings now. We are running flu and Covid-19 vaccination clinics at our pharmacies so it is really busy at work too, but it's all part of the job each morning, making sure everyone receives the care they need.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

Normally, I just grab a cereal bar on the way to work - I'm group manager at McKenzies Pharmacy which has several branches across the city, so I could be at the Falls Road or in North Queen Street.


Until recently, I'd tend to skip lunch and just work through. I am trying to rectify this by bringing a packed lunch in with me.

Evening meal?

Dinner is a chance to spend quality time each day as a family, so we prepare a healthy, home-cooked meal every evening. My wife is also a pharmacist and will work most Saturdays, so family time at dinner every night is an essential part of the day.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

No working from home for us - as frontline health workers, we have seen our hours spent in the pharmacy increase significantly over the pandemic.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

I've found finding time to eat a real challenge throughout the pandemic. Mostly, I've just grabbed the nearest thing that kept me ticking over.


Weekend treat?

Friday night is 'movie night' in our house and the kids love staying up a little later and tucking into popcorn.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during the lockdowns?

The pace of work in a community pharmacy has helped keep my mind busy and I always make time to see a personal trainer at least twice a week to help with physical fitness.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

During lockdown, I started to do workouts outside in the fresh air, during daylight hours. I would also go on the odd run, time-permitting.


How do you relax?

It can be tricky to relax with three kids, but I find watching a movie together is the best way to unwind after a busy day at work.


Teetotal or tipple?

I'm a social drinker - I enjoy a beer or a glass of wine when I'm out for dinner. During the week, it's non-alcoholic beer for me...


What book are you currently reading?

I'm reading The Devil's Advocate by Steve Cavanagh which is about a New York-based conman-turned attorney. It's a real crime thriller and very gripping.


Best Netflix?

I really enjoyed Ted Lasso, about a clueless American soccer coach brought in to manage a team in the Premier League; it's really funny and totally binge-worthy.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

I have always been a problem-solver and I think Covid-19 has really crystallised this for me. I found that I could remain rational and, most importantly, stay calm when under pressure. At the pharmacy there were lots of challenges as we had to keep our staff and patients safe as we delivered essential services. As a team, we pulled together and modified the pharmacy very quickly, installing new features such as safety screens virtually overnight.


On a scale of one to 10, where have you been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?

It's been totally the opposite for me - the pandemic has seen me glued to the pharmacy, not so much the sofa. I'd have to say I'd quite like to have cabin fever.


What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?

I think everyone would say the big one is not being able to see people, like friends and the wider family. I've also missed not being able to get away on holiday and do things we normally do, such as family activities and meals out.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

I'd love to take the family away to Disneyland - maybe in 2023 as a big family holiday to look forward to.


Biggest gripe?

I'm generally happy in life, I just wish there were more hours in the day.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

Obviously, working in frontline healthcare throughout the pandemic came with lots of additional pressures. Covid-19 really reinforced the importance of family, so I try to focus on the people close to me as much as possible.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I'm currently restoring a vintage motorbike - a 1952 Norton. It's a big project and a slow process. I can spend 15 minutes tinkering on it or two hours working on the gearbox.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

I'd really like to see the efforts of all our key workers recognised. I can honestly say that the hard work my staff have shown during the last 18 months has been second to none. I just hope this continues to be valued.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

No, I wouldn't say so. I've always been fairly upbeat and I try to rationalise and take a realistic approach to whatever comes along in this life.

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