Creating pharmacists of tomorrow
As the complexity of chronic diseases evolves - and as rates rise in Canada - St. Joseph’s Health Care London hopes to help create a new generation of pharmacists with expertise in outpatient care of a rapidly growing patient population.
St. Joseph’s has launched a residency program for new pharmacy graduates focused on outpatient chronic disease management and the critical role of pharmacists in providing wholistic care to patients. The intensive, one-year program is one of few in Canada providing hands-on training in team-based, outpatient hospital care for chronic diseases and conditions. With placements at all five St. Joseph’s sites and in a variety of clinical settings, the pharmacy resident will complete training within the Pain Management Program, Rheumatology Centre, Palliative Care Unit, Rehabilitation Program, Mental Health Care Program, and the organization’s outpatient community pharmacy, with electives available in forensic mental health care and other specialties.
Particularly unique is what the pharmacy resident will learn about the connection between chronic disease, mental health and rehabilitation, establishing trusting relationships with patients, and the integral role of pharmacists as a member of a broad team of health care professionals, explains Denise Kreutzwiser, who led the development of St. Joseph’s pharmacy residency program.
“No other Canadian pharmacy residency program offers an intensive focus in interdisciplinary chronic pain management or rheumatology, addressing a critical need identified by the national bodies of those specialties to better understand and serve those living with chronic pain or rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases,” says Denise.
Our program is so unique because it's not an acute care hospital residency program. There are just a handful of ambulatory or chronic disease-based residency programs in the country.
-Denise Kreutzeiser, pharmacist, Pain Management Program
With applicants from as far as Qatar and Australia, the successful inaugural pharmacy resident is Sumani Vij, a graduate of University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy. Drawn to the ambulatory care focus at St. Joseph’s, Sumani says the training opportunity is the ideal middle ground between acute care and community pharmacy work.
“You’re able to create pharmacist-patient relationships, which I really like, but also to collaborate with many allied health professionals – social workers, occupational therapists, nurses, physiotherapists and others,” says Sumani. “You get the best of both worlds.”
While pharmacy rotations during the four years of pharmacy school are compulsory, a residency after graduating and passing the certification exams is voluntary, explains Denise. A residency is additional training that provides pharmacists with proficiency in a particular area. There are only 130 residency spots across Canada for year one pharmacy residents – predominantly in hospital acute care pharmacy.
“Our program is so unique because it’s not an acute care hospital residency program,” says Denise, a pharmacist with St. Joseph’s Pain Management Program. “There are just a handful of ambulatory or chronic disease-based residency programs in the country.”
The program, she adds, embraces the continuity of care concept. An inpatient rehabilitation rotation provides the pharmacy resident with insight into how patients with chronic conditions travel through the health care system and how pharmacists support patients during transitions in care.
Not only does the pharmacy resident emerge from St. Joseph’s with proficiency in chronic disease management but also in helping patients make important changes to improve their health. It’s the only Canadian residency program providing 30 hours of specialized training aimed at helping health care providers support patients in making lasting behaviour changes for overall wellness.
“These elements, along with the unique culture at St. Joseph’s, having patients and caregivers help shape the program to ensure their perspective and lived experience is featured, and the provision of care through the lens of equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging creates a learning experience like no other,” says Denise.
Within pharmacy there’s a whole world to explore and I want to see where I fit best.
-Sumani Vij, inaugural pharmacy resident
For Sumani, it was the opportunity she was seeking. Particularly intriguing, says the driven 25-year-old, “is the focus on chronic pain and mental health, how complex and intermingled they can be, and the pharmacist’s role in supporting patients and making sure they are being treated wholistically – from all angles and by multiple disciplines.”
She also looks forward to an elective in forensic mental health care – a rare learning opportunity in Canada - and a rotation in palliative care, which she describes as another unique role for pharmacists because “it’s about looking less at what you can prescribe and more at what you can take away to ensure the patient’s comfort.”
While just getting underway, St. Joseph’s pharmacy residency program has already drawn attention with numerous applicants for the first year and other organizations reaching out for advice on setting up their own residency programs, says Andrey Andriets, Director of Pharmacy Services. The plan is to grow the program and offer more than one spot in subsequent years.
“Pharmacy Services is pleased to contribute to the extensive teaching role of St. Joseph’s and advance pharmacy learner opportunities with a focus on ambulatory care of tomorrow,” say Andrey.
Sumani chose pharmacy as a profession because of its growth and evolution in recent years related to prescribing powers, opportunities to forge relationships with patients, and the diverse workplace options. As she begins her learning journey at St. Joseph’s, she looks forward to gaining experience, confidence and knowledge that will shape her future career, and all the possibilities that loom.
“Within pharmacy there’s a whole world to explore and I want to see where I fit best,” says Sumani. “St. Joseph’s residency program is super well rounded and offers really unique electives. I’m excited by everything it offers. I want to learn and create a better version of myself.”