When it comes to staying current with the latest practices in pharmacy, Harpreet Deol is ahead of the game.
By Mike Boivin, BSc.Phm.
Many pharmacists graduating from university feel they are at their peak and are concerned their learning will slowly deteriorate over time. Increasingly, savvy pharmacists realize that continuing education plays a vital role in ensuring they maintain their ability to provide the optimal care for their patients.
Harpreet, who practises at Rexall in Melfort, Saskatchewan, is a perfect example of a recent pharmacy graduate who realizes the need to keep his learning fresh.
“Pharmacists’ role is changing with the implementation of expanded services like minor ailments and injection services,” he says. “We need to keep up-to-date with new and relevant information. With this information, our goal is to provide optimal therapy and do all we can do within our scope of practice, and to ensure our patients are achieving the best possible health outcomes.”
To stay ahead of the game, Harpreet developed an education plan to keep his expertise current and growing. “We are fortunate that in Saskatchewan minor ailment courses are part of the graduation requirements. They allow me to prescribe medications for common ailments seen in pharmacy practice. I realized that I needed more knowledge to improve the care I deliver to my patients and undertook an extensive therapeutics course to ensure my patient management was optimal.”
One of Harpreet’s first strategies was to tap his provincial and national pharmacy associations for the latest information on continuing education courses.
He also attends professional conferences for both learning and collaboration.
“Attending live sessions gives me the opportunity to meet other pharmacists and healthcare professionals and discuss what they are doing in practice, and pick up valuable tips,” he emphasizes.
Online courses, such as those offered through the Rexall Learning Institute, Rexall’s internal learning portal, are a good way to complement face-to-face learning. They can help provide refreshers at a convenient time for busy pharmacists. “Living in rural Saskatchewan is a barrier as the educational resources are limited and most of the major CE activities are in major centres,” he notes. “This creates a challenge when trying to stay on top of things. However, there are great benefits to being in a rural setting as the relationship with other health professionals is easier to develop. And with a less busy environment, you are able to build a better relationship with your patients.”
Harpreet supplements live conferences with membership to a number of online medical information services. “They provide me with access to the information that I require in real-time,” he says. “This gives me what I need to manage the patient standing in front of me.”
Over the past year, Harpreet has dealt with a number of patients with diabetes or hypertension. He turns to resources like the Canadian Diabetes Association website to search any new education materials to help him provide better care for his patients.
“I realize that even with the available resources I am not fully equipped to manage these patients,” he says. “My future plans include certification in these disease states to work with patients to provide information and help set goals to achieve positive health outcomes.”
By keeping current, Harpreet is ideally positioned to embrace the changing role of the pharmacist. “I have identified my educational needs and barriers and I am doing everything I can to ensure I have the tools to manage my patients today and for many years to come.”
Top tips to make the most of continuing education
- Develop a plan, identifying learning needs and actively seeking out activities that address these needs.
- Start with areas where you may be lacking the base knowledge to properly manage your patients. Use your patients as a resource to identify care needs and areas where you may be deficient.
- Plan for the future, not the present. Pharmacists generally focus on increasing their education to address their current scope of practice. Practice change is accelerating so pharmacists should start planning for the activities being proposed for the future. For example, injection training and laboratory monitoring are useful skills to help some pharmacists today, and all pharmacists in the future.