Pharmacy residency puts students in community

If you thought the role of pharmacists was solely to prepare prescriptions, and dispense drugs to patients, well, think again.

In 2006, Karen Trotter was approaching the end of her pharmacy degree at the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and wasn’t sure what career focus to pursue. She knew she wanted to work in a community setting, but ?only knew about the residency programs available in hospitals. Then a pharmacy colleague suggested she look into the UBC Community Pharmacy Residency Program.

The first of its kind in Canada and initiated at UBC, the Community Pharmacy Residency Program allows students to learn about healthcare issues such as palliative care, diabetes, smoking cessation and chronic disease management in a community pharmacy. The community focus is unique as most pharmacy residency programs only offer training opportunities in hospitals. Past residents are working in pain clinics as medication management pharmacists, as pharmacy instructors at colleges and universities, and as geriatric pharmacists with B.C. health authorities. A number have gone on to deepen their learning through further study in a Doctor of Pharmacy program.

“Entering this one-year program was a great first step to deciding what direction I should take,” says Trotter.

During her 2006-2007 community residency, she worked with pharmacist mentors called preceptors at a handful of the 12 B.C. community practice sites available to program residents.

One of her favourite rotations included home visits with seniors who were recently discharged from Peace Arch Hospital. “It was an amazing opportunity to connect with a patient group that often benefits from more time, and personal contact than a busy dispensary allows,” says Trotter. “At a different site, I also discovered how much I love doing long-term care, partly because the interdisciplinary teams and patient information are more readily accessible.” She adds working as part of a group of healthcare professionals taught her that a pharmacist is a valued member of any team.

“We have the educational background and expertise that allows us to pick up the additional skills and knowledge to support a varied population with diverse needs,” she says. During her residency, the BC Pharmacy Association recognized her with a New Horizons award, given to recent graduates that make a significant contribution to the pharmacy profession.

Trotter used her contacts with pharmacy mentors to land her first appointment at St. Anthony’s Clinic Pharmacy in Victoria, working closely with other healthcare professionals at long-term care facilities.

“Overall, the UBC Community Pharmacy Residency Program broadened my vision of the practice of community pharmacy and helped me to see building lasting and trusting relationships with patients as an integral part of patient care,” she says.

“Health care delivery patterns are changing rapidly,” says Penny Miller, program director, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “The community pharmacy residency provides new pharmacists with the advanced training required to deliver clinical pharmacy services to communities in these fluctuating times.” She adds mentors are a big part of the program’s continued success.

“Preceptors have incredible knowledge and skills that students are able to draw on during their two-to-four week rotations,” she says. In turn, the students help preceptors keep up to date on clinical issues and share their accumulated knowledge and passion.

Miller developed the Community Pharmacy Residency Program in 1981 with fellow colleagues Mark Levine and Lynn Pollock to respond to a need for more advanced training in clinical services and pharmacotherapy for community pharmacy practitioners. To this day there are only a handful of similar programs, mostly in the U.S. The program is sponsored by the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia and the BC Pharmacy Association.