Although pharmacy employees' involvement in patient education has great potential, the extent to which they actually provide cognitive services seems inadequate. Given the overburdening of the healthcare system and limited access to medical services due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic outbreak, this study aimed to evaluate the preparedness of Polish pharmacy employees for patient education on the new threat. The study was conducted using the mystery shopper method. Two interviewers phoned 90 randomly chosen community pharmacies throughout Poland and presented some inquiries on the SARS-CoV-2. Pharmacists devoted more time to patients than pharmacy technicians (2:22 vs. 1:54), and the information they provided was significantly more comprehensive (p = 0.006). The majority of respondents provided an evidence-based recommendation on prevention, symptoms, and management of SARS-CoV-2; however, the scope of advice significantly varied. Community pharmacy staff often expressed their concern about the lack of time to address patients' questions adequately. No statistically significant differences were found in recommendations provided by chain and non-chain pharmacy staff. Obtained results seem to confirm the possibility of involving pharmacists in public health activities during a pandemic. Nevertheless, providing proper working conditions and adequate just-in-time learning solutions is crucial.
Keywords: COVID-19; community pharmacy; health promotion; mystery shopper; pandemic; patient education; pharmaceutical services.