In a suburb with about 1000 Burmese refugees, Deirdre Magee, a Victory Square pharmacist, needed to find a better way to communicate with her clients.
She hired and trained an interpreter, and now two years on Magee has been awarded Community Pharmacist of the Year.
"I'm a bit shocked, I was surprised and very pleased," she said.
Magee moved to Nelson from Northern Ireland in 2006 with her husband and acquired the Victory Square pharmacy in 2008.
Zember Peh was hired by Magee after receiving funding from the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board and Nelson Bays Primary Health. Magee worked with Refugee Services, which helped to identify Peh for her good English and interest in health.
Peh moved to New Zealand in 2007 after spending most of her life in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Burma. She was born in the Myanmar state of Karenni and is fluent in Burmese, Kayan and Thai.
Through having Peh as an interpreter Magee has increased her customer base to about 500 former refugees, with Peh interpreting more than 300 of their visits.
Magee said Peh had completed courses on medical terminology, pharmacy and healthcare in order to increase the level of service given to refugee customers.
Her assistance has helped former refugees to better understand the New Zealand health system and the medicines they are prescribed. Magee said that the chances of something going wrong medically due to a language barrier have been greatly reduced.
Peh said many refugees were not well educated about medicine and did not know a lot about the human body.
Peh's patient-centred services extended into interpreting for midwives and accompanying patients to doctors' appointments.
Magee and her pharmacy staff attended the Pharmacy Today/ProPharma Pharmacy Awards on Saturday night in Auckland where she was presented with the GlaxoSmithKline Community Pharmacist of the Year award.
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