Inspire Dayton: VA pharmacist ‘always puts veterans first’

Outpatient Pharmacy Supervisor at the Dayton V.A. Medical Center, Taneesha Watson and her team implemented new programs to help veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caption
Outpatient Pharmacy Supervisor at the Dayton V.A. Medical Center, Taneesha Watson and her team implemented new programs to help veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

‘Adaptability’ becomes the watchword in a global pandemic

Taneesha Watson is the calm at the center of the storm who adapted a busy pharmacy to keep local vets safe and get them their critical medications, according to the colleagues who work with her daily at the Dayton Veteran Affairs Medical Center.

Watson is the outpatient pharmacy supervisor there in the midst of a global pandemic when patient concerns are heightened, social distancing is required and a complex job gets even more complex.

The pharmacy simply cannot shut down or cut services due to pandemic restrictions, said Tony Wootton, assistant chief of pharmacy services at the Dayton VA Medical Center, someone who has known and supervised Watson for some eight years.

“She leads from the front and her philosophy of ‘find a way to say yes’ resonates with her staff,” Wootton said of Watson.

During this challenging year, Daytonians have banded together to help each other. Throughout December, the Dayton Daily News is telling the stories of people from across our region who have inspired others.

Watson has been with the Dayton VA for nine years, working with Walgreens Infusion Services before that.

She has always felt drawn to pharmaceutical and health care work, she said.

“I have always enjoyed working with patients,” Watson told the Dayton Daily News. “It’s really my passion.”

Physician and nurses remain the front-line workers in the battle against COVID-19. But pharmacists are there, as well, with a key role in dispensing medication and, perhaps soon, helping to dispense vaccines for COVID.

“We’re here to support the physicians and the nurses,” Watson said. “Providing patients with their medication is such a critical part of health care, and I really, really enjoy that.”

Putting veterans first, day in and day out

“She always puts veterans first and takes on their issues,” Wootton said.

A visit to a local pharmacy confirms how busy pharmacists can be, and the Dayton VA is no different. The outpatient pharmacy at the VA fills 800 prescriptions, processes another 1,000 scripts for mail, and sees about 250 veterans daily in pharmacy booths where face-to-face interaction is possible, Wootton said.

“That’s about a typical day,” Watson said.

Disruptions in prescription service might have been expected when the pandemic started. Veterans who experienced symptoms were initially not allowed into the VA campus facility, and many were frightened away and simply did not come in, as Wootton described the situation in the pandemic’s early days.

The number of veterans coming into the pharmacy quickly dropped, and the VA pharmacy — like pharmacies everywhere — was forced to adapt.

Watson and her staff worked with the VA’s Pharmacy Contact Center to ensure veterans could get prescriptions via UPS next-day delivery.

Watson closed the pharmacy booths and moved operations to dispensing windows. In time, she coordinated with engineering staff and had plexiglass barriers installed into the booths.

According to her colleagues, she created a streamlined process for patients who were deemed COVID-positive or suspected positive, arranging it so that prescriptions could be filled in advance and delivered to patients waiting in primary care, so ill veterans would not have to walk throughout a large facility.

And a curbside prescription delivery service has started.

Watson stressed that it was all a team effort, and she’s the first to credit her colleagues.

Said Watson: “We implemented so many changes, I feel like I’m just a mere representation of the entire group.”

Wootton believes she is more.

“Where Taneesha really shines is her calm influence on her staff, in the face of many unknowns and frank fears,” he said. “The ability to improvise and make changes very quickly is inherent to a pharmacy leader. Taneesha does this each and every day.”

Inspire Dayton

Throughout the month of December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year. Read all the stories at DaytonDailyNews.com/inspire-dayton. Tell us who inspired you in 2020 by emailing jordan.laird@coxinc.com.