Pharmacy students among tops in country

(Edmonton) Two University of Alberta students scored top marks from the Health Council of Canada for advocating the health-care benefits of pharmacists prescribing medication.

Kathryn Reid and Joshua Plante, fourth-year students in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, placed third in the team category for the Health Council of Canada’s Health Innovation Challenge. More than 100 post-secondary students from across Canada participated in the challenge after being asked to identify innovative practices in Canadian health care and explain how they could be applied in the rest of the country.

The U of A duo wrote about the benefits of giving pharmacists the ability to prescribe medication. It’s a policy that Alberta adopted in 2007, and one Reid says could help improve health-care access across the country.

“The success of a policy like this lies in the ability to refer and for us to work collaboratively with family physicians as two different health-care professionals, instead of working in silos,” Reid says. “Alberta is at the forefront of introducing this policy and we have seen quite a bit of success with it, so we’re hoping the rest of the provinces move in that direction as well.”

Reid says giving pharmacists prescribing powers addresses problems with accessibility currently affecting the health-care system, such a shortage of family physicians, especially in rural areas. A community pharmacy can help bridge that gap in patient care—a situation that is only going to compound as Canada’s population ages, giving rise to more chronic diseases, she adds.

“There’s a lot of patients with diabetes, hypertension or heart disease who are seeing their family physician once a year at best, as opposed to their pharmacist, who they might see every three months for their medication refills or to get strips for a diabetes meter,” she says. “Being in that position, we have a real benefit to see our patients more frequently and follow up with them on a more regular basis.”

Plante says he sees the changing scope of practice to offer more clinical services as inevitable in the rest of the country. His U of A training has given him first-hand clinical experience working with patients, which is one of the great rewards of a career in pharmacy.

“Following up with patients is part of this process. When you find a problem, you help them solve it and each time you see them, you follow up on it,” he said. “You build that professional relationship with a patient, and that’s the bottom line: we need to form a relationship with each patient we can. I think it’s the future of where we’re going as a profession. There will be a learning curve and some growing pains, but I think it’s inevitable.”