Pharmacists-in-Training: An Intensive, Hands-on Experience in Hospital Practice


Pharmacy residency programs are competitive, but for recent pharmacy grads looking to practice in hospitals, pharmacy residencies are an excellent way to get their careers started. That was just the case for Jenna Haché and Heather Williams, two pharmacy residents accepted to Eastern Health’s first pharmacy residency program last fall.

Jenna and Heather were selected from over two dozen applicants across the country for an intensive, hands-on experience in hospital practice. The optional, 12-month post-graduate residency year builds upon the competencies of a professional degree in pharmacy, and prepares students to excel in clinical areas. Eastern Health’s Pharmacy Program welcomed them with open arms.

(L-r): Heather Williams, pharmacy resident; Dr. Barbara Thomas, clinical pharmacy specialist and pharmacy residency coordinator; Jenna Haché, pharmacy resident; and Norm Lace, pharmacy program director and residency director, all with Eastern Health

(L-r): Heather Williams, pharmacy resident; Dr. Barbara Thomas, clinical pharmacy specialist and pharmacy residency coordinator; Jenna Haché, pharmacy resident; and Norm Lace, pharmacy program director and residency director, all with Eastern Health

Clinical pharmacists, also known as hospital pharmacists, are involved directly with patients during acute illnesses and work closely with the health-care team to ensure the most successful medication therapy is provided to a patient.

A pharmacist’s primary responsibility is to provide safe and effective medications to patients. Based on their ‘pharmacotherapy’ knowledge, i.e. the treatment of disease using drugs, clinical pharmacists are involved in many aspects of a patient’s medication therapy – a key benefit of doing a pharmacy residency in a hospital.

“Making sure that patients benefit the most from their medications is critical, which means ensuring that patients understand their medications, and how to take them properly,” says Dr. Barbara Thomas, a clinical pharmacy specialist and pharmacy residency coordinator with Eastern Health. “This involves assessing patients’ medications when they are hospitalized to identify any drug problems and make recommendations as necessary.”

A clinical pharmacist consults with other health providers on the vascular surgery unit at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital. (L-r): Darryl Burke, vascular clinical pharmacist; Lorie Dinn, vascular nurse practitioner; Heather Williams, pharmacist resident; and Kara Ryan, vascular nurse practitioner with Eastern Health

A clinical pharmacist consults with other health providers on the vascular surgery unit at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital. (L-r): Darryl Burke, vascular clinical pharmacist; Lorie Dinn, vascular nurse practitioner; Heather Williams, pharmacist resident; and Kara Ryan, vascular nurse practitioner with Eastern Health

Pharmacists play a key role in patient care. For example, by working with the medical team, hospital pharmacists can

  • help to reduce the time patients are hospitalized; and by choosing appropriate medications and discontinuing medications that could cause harmful effects, hospital pharmacists can also
  • help to prevent re-admissions to hospitals.

“Clinical pharmacists have extensive knowledge in infectious diseases which aids to transition patients to oral (non-intravenous) medications so they can go home sooner from the hospital,” Dr. Thomas says. “Clinical pharmacists also ensure that patients have access to medications prior to discharge to ease their transition into the community.”

Equipping pharmacists to excel in direct patient activities is precisely the appeal of completing a residency. It prepares residents for challenging and innovative pharmacy practice through structured rotations, education, research and administration. At the end of the program, the resident must display proficiency in a number of areas including providing evidence-based patient care as a member of an inter-professional, health-care team.

Resident Heather Williams agrees. “Doing this residency allows me to see multiple areas and decide what I like best among a wide range of unique rotation options, in areas such as cystic fibrosis or in the Adult Outpatient Thrombosis Service or the HIV Clinic,” says Heather. “Plus, I have the opportunity to work weekends in the pharmacy dispensary!”

Eastern Health’s pharmacy resident Heather Williams gives the flu shot to a pharmacy staff member

Eastern Health’s pharmacy resident Heather Williams gives the flu shot to a pharmacy staff member

Adult Outpatient Thrombosis Service

The Adult Outpatient Thrombosis Service, a successful collaboration between Eastern Health and Memorial University, is a multidisciplinary service within the hematology unit that provides care to patients who have, or are at risk of experiencing, a blood clot. This service is particularly appealing to residents because it offers a pharmacist-run clinic to manage patients’ anticoagulation therapy. There are several hospital pharmacists who work in the clinic on a day-to-day basis.

Dr. Kristi Parmiter, clinical pharmacy specialist (right) overseeing a patient assessment in the Adult Outpatient Thrombosis Service

Dr. Kristi Parmiter, clinical pharmacy specialist (right) overseeing a patient assessment in the Adult Outpatient Thrombosis Service

Research is another core component of successful pharmacy residency programs, and particularly appealing to resident Jenna Haché.

“An extremely valuable component of the residency program is conducting a research project with the guidance of a research supervisor,” Jenna says. “In my time here, I’ve had the opportunity to consult with an experienced research team, and I have designed a study to assess the impact of a pharmacist-led Direct Oral Anticoagulant Clinic.

“I will be collecting data on the service to measure various outcomes of the clinic. Once the data is analyzed, a manuscript will be submitted for publication. Having this opportunity will allow me to make research a part of my future career.”

(L-r): Dr. Stephanie Young, pharmacy researcher, and Jenna Haché, pharmacy resident with Eastern Health

(L-r): Dr. Stephanie Young, pharmacy researcher, and Jenna Haché, pharmacy resident with Eastern Health

Collaborations in patient care

The residency program is also a means to further enhance collaborative patient care, and includes core rotations in areas such as antimicrobial stewardship, critical care, general medicine and surgery. Depending on the interest of the residents, they can elect to do rotations in a number of other areas including mental health and addictions, neuro-rehabilitation and hemodialysis. As the majority of the rotations are in specialized clinical practice, the resident gets the opportunity to work with many patient care teams and to interact with a wide variety of health-care professionals over the course of the residency.

Patient care team holding rounds in the Intensive Care unit at the Health Sciences Centre

Patient care team holding rounds in the Intensive Care unit at the Health Sciences Centre

The residency program is a clear example of the benefits of partnership. Eastern Health offers a strong clinical experience for the residents by focusing on their role in a hospital setting, while the academic curriculum is enhanced by working hand-in-hand with the School of Pharmacy at Memorial University.

Encouraged by the high level of interests from candidates across the country, Eastern Health has just completed another successful match between applicants and the residency program – and is now preparing to welcome its second cohort of residents, and looks forward to a program accreditation process in the fall of 2019.

Norm Lace, pharmacy program director and residency director at Eastern Health, says establishing the residency program has taken a lot of work – but is incredibly rewarding. “At Eastern Health, we see the pharmacy residency program as an investment in our future. The advanced knowledge and skills that the residents bring to the table, in the end, will help to strengthen the quality of health-care services that we provide to the people of the province.” ■

March is Pharmacy Awareness Month – Eastern Health joins other organizations in celebrating the contributions that the pharmacy team makes to our health-care system.

This story was written by Melisa Valverde, digital communications manager, in collaboration with Dr. Barbara Thomas, clinical pharmacy specialist and pharmacy residency coordinator, and pharmacy residents Heather Williams and Jenna Haché with Eastern Health.

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