Ask Your Pharmacist
I’ve heard a lot about expanding the work of pharmacists and their role in health care. What does this mean?
Pharmacy practice in New Brunswick has evolved tremendously since I graduated from Dalhousie University 20 years ago. At convocation, we take an oath to serve the public through the promotion of health and we make a commitment to life-long learning.
We keep this oath top of mind as the New Brunswick government continues to partner with us to bring timely access to healthcare by practicing to our full potential as health-care professionals.
Currently, there are approximately 59,000 New Brunswickers without a family doctor or nurse practitioner. The average pharmacist in New Brunswick manages 1,300 patients in their community, and there are approximately 900 pharmacists in New Brunswick. Most pharmacies are open days, evenings, weekends, holidays, and in many cases, 365 days a year.
Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals. Dalhousie University’s College of Pharmacy, as well as other Canadian faculties, have introduced a Doctorate of Pharmacy program. This is a four-year, intensive program of both academic and clinical education. It includes 40 weeks of patient care clinical rotations including physical assessment and laboratory testing.
My personal education path after an undergraduate degree in science, and a pharmacy degree at Dal, included a one-year accredited hospital pharmacy residency, and a three-year doctorate program at University of Florida. This level of training makes it possible to expand the work pharmacists do, in addition to remaining your medication experts.
In addition to making sure your medicines are safe, being certified immunizers, and able to administer some subcutaneous and intramuscular medications, pharmacists have authority to prescribe certain medications.
Horizon Health Network’s “So Why Wait campaign” recognizes that it makes sense to utilize pharmacists and other health care professionals to the full scope of their practice to deliver you timely access to care.
A pharmacist may issue a new prescription for pre-existing conditions in an emergency situation, renew a prescription that continues the care of a condition already diagnosed by your primary care practitioner, and can assess the current medication you are taking and make minor alterations to your prescription if needed. There are over 30 minor ailments that a pharmacist can assess and prescribe for.
Some of these services are covered by Medicare, such as: antiviral therapy for mild COVID-19, hormonal contraception, treatment for shingles and urinary tract infections in women. For assessments not covered by Medicare, there is a charge to the patient.
Across the Maritimes, governments are starting to cover more of the work pharmacists are qualified to do. On PEI, through the Pharmacy Plus PEI program, pharmacists can assess and prescribe, free of charge, for 32 common ailments and may renew your prescription(s). In January, the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia, in partnership with the Government of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Health, launched new primary care clinics at select pharmacy locations (https://pans.ns.ca/cppcc). These clinics provide pharmacy primary care services at no charge to people with a valid Nova Scotia Health Card.
As pharmacists, we are trained, accessible, and ready to do our part to ease the burden on New Brunswick’s health-care system. You can discuss your medical condition with your pharmacist by phone, or in person. So why wait?
Dr. Kevin McLaughlin (PharmD, BScPharm, BSc, ACPR) is the Director of Professional Practice with the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association. Kevin's home practice is at Kennebecasis Drugs, Rothesay, New Brunswick. His opinions are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.
Dr. Kevin McLaughlin (PharmD, BScPharm, BSc, ACPR) is the Director of Professional Practice with the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association. Kevin's home practice is at Kennebecasis Drugs in Rothesay, New Brunswick. His opinions are published in several newspapers for educational and informational purposes only. They are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question you’d like to see answered in his column, you can send it to him at AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.