MAY 2021 - Pharmacy students value their work experiences more than ever due to the new reality of digital learning brought on by COVID-19. While our online lectures and open book examinations focus more on case studies and learning applications, rather than memorization, we can no longer participate in patient-interaction exercises in an in-person classroom. This means our work experiences are more important than ever to allow us to put our learnings into practice.
For my work term, I was employed at a community pharmacy. My job was to assist the workflow wherever I was needed, which gave me the opportunity to experience everything there was to do in the pharmacy. My manager and the staff had created a well-established learning environment, which truly enhanced my skill development.
The very first step, prescription transcription, allowed me to work closely with the pharmacist to assess therapeutic appropriateness before the prescription was prepared. This was also a stage of inventory management, as we had many patients on specially ordered medications that ranged from fertility management to complex diabetes care. With such a diverse patient population, I was exposed to a wide range of medications to counsel on and to learn from.
Later in the workflow, I worked with clerks and technicians so I could learn how to transcribe blister packing, rebill prescriptions and order stock on our Kroll system. I really appreciated this kind of hands-on, behind-the-scenes experience because it made me realize pharmacy was more than just the clinical content we learned in school: there were many things that needed to happen to ensure everything runs smoothly for the patient.
Preparing medications is a skill in pharmaceutical elegance, which I was able to exercise with the simple compounds accepted by the pharmacy. It was great to put my pharmaceutics lab training into play. Intermediaries of this process included cleaning procedures, including those enforced before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. This showed me how pharmacies were able to adapt to the pandemic but still maintain their workflow.
My experiences with patients were the most impactful. As it is our role to educate patients on medication management, the pharmacists taught me that it was important to be calm and listen actively to understand what they need to know. Many patients are in a rush and don’t remember our conversations, so it was important for me to learn how to provide information in a succinct fashion that still answered their concerns.
The firsthand experience of being part of the complete workflow from start to finish was imperative, as it put everything that I was learning in school into context for me.
And what I learned as a result of COVID-19 simply can’t be taught in an academic setting.
After an online school term that explained the fundamentals of how community pharmacies had to adapt as an essential service, I was thrilled to have a co-op term to be part of the frontline. Our pharmacy was a hub for questions and concerns. We had to constantly stay on top of updates on vaccine rollouts, address vaccine hesitancy and interpret policies from Health Canada for our patients. It was exciting to be a part of that, and I hope I was able to make a difference not only for patients, but for the pharmacy team as well.
On behalf of all pharmacy students, thank you to the pharmacy owners, managers and staff who take the time to welcome and mentor pharmacy students, especially during these exceptionally challenging times. We hope you benefit as much we do.
Jasmine Chan is a third-year pharmacy student at the University of Waterloo and is working part-time at CFP this summer. We’re thrilled to have her.