Ask Your Pharmacist
My first year of a Bachelor of Science degree at Dalhousie University is nearly complete. I am considering applying to pharmacy because I am interested in chemistry and it seems like the role of the pharmacist is advancing considerably. My family is in N.B. and I want to come back home when I have completed my education. What can you tell me about being a pharmacist in New Brunswick?
March is Pharmacy Appreciation Month, so it’s an excellent time to discuss pharmacy as a career and the pharmacist’s role in health care.
Pharmacists are highly trained medication experts. Many pharmacists have university degrees prior to being accepted into the pharmacy degree program.
Across Canada, most pharmacy faculties now offer an entry-level Doctorate of Pharmacy Degree program. These programs are robust, extensive combinations of academic learning and patient-focused training, with 40 weeks of clinical rotations. More than 30 Accredited Canadian Pharmacy Residency training programs are also offered for 12 to 18 months of additional specialty training.
Hospital pharmacists are trusted medication experts that improve your health and save hospitals money. Hospital pharmacists work with the health care team to make sure your medications are safe and effective. They present you with medication treatment options, listen to your opinions and concerns, and work with the health-care team to ensure your individual health goals are met. Hospital pharmacists order laboratory investigations to help them monitor your medication therapy, and are able to adjust dosages based on these lab values. They evaluate your current medications and recommend the best way to stop those no longer needed.
When appropriate, hospital pharmacists provide you with the best medication options for you to receive care in your own home. They also work with you to help remove barriers that prevent you from having access to the medications you need. Hospital pharmacists save the Canadian health-care system four dollars for every dollar they earn. They decrease your length of hospital stay by preventing medication errors and minimizing complications from medication therapy.
In a community pharmacy, great care is taken to make certain your prescription is prepared with the correct product, at the right dose, route, frequency and duration. The pharmacist looks at your entire medication profile to check for prescription drug interactions, interactions with over-the-counter medications, allergy checks, as well as looking at your blood work to ensure your dosage is correct based on your kidney health and other parameters. Pharmacists counsel patients on new medications, including oral chemotherapy, biological agents, antimicrobials, and antidepressant therapy.
Over the past twenty years in New Brunswick, pharmacists have become an integral part of hospital multidisciplinary patient care teams. Pharmacists demonstrate their significant role in many direct patient care activities, including medication management, identifying adverse or incorrect medication usage, counselling on medications, and effectively optimizing a patient’s understanding of their own medication regimens to enhance their overall quality of life.
During the last decade, we have seen pharmacists provide services to patients and primary care practitioners through the health team or centre (rather than a pharmacy). These services include comprehensive medication reviews for patients on multiple medications, providing drug information and education to the other health-care professionals on the team and patients, and working with the patient’s community pharmacist on their prescriptions. Much of the day-to-day work is helping patients manage medications, including identifying drug therapy problems and making medication recommendations.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists in many communities were the only health-care professionals accessible to the public. Over one million COVID-19 immunizations have been administered to New Brunswickers by pharmacy professionals.
In January, Nova Scotia primary care pharmacists began to offer services covered by Medicare, including assessment and prescribing for 31 minor ailments, assessment, testing and prescribing for Strep throat, Chronic Disease Drug Therapy Management (i.e., diabetes, COPD, hypertension, asthma) and more. New Brunswick pharmacists have been urging our provincial government for a similar level of coverage for patients here.
New Brunswick pharmacists are front-line health-care professionals. There are over 900 pharmacists and more than 250 registered pharmacy technicians practicing in over 200 pharmacies around New Brunswick. Pharmacies are in every community in New Brunswick with doors open the majority of each day, including, weekends and holidays. There is an accessible pharmacist caring for New Brunswickers in every community 365 days a year.
Choose a career in pharmacy and you choose a path of life-long learning. You will become part of the solution for New Brunswickers to gain timely access to access to health care.
This Pharmacy Appreciation month, I challenge New Brunswick’s pharmacy professionals:
Light up our profession. Do this by resonating acts of caring each day for our patients, for ourselves, for each other. Speak out. Practice with tenderness and caring. Push forward with resilience.
Happy Pharmacy Appreciation Month!
Dr. Kevin McLaughlin (PharmD, BScPharm, BSc, ACPR) is 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.