Over the course of her career, Brenda Bursey has been the owner of an independent pharmacy and an associate-owner for Shoppers Drug Mart. She developed an interest in the treatment of opioid addiction and became a prime mover in the development of the Opioid Dependence Treatment (ODT) program in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Education: College of Trades and Technology, St. John’s (Pharmacy)
Current role: Staff pharmacist; Shoppers Drug Mart, St. John’s, Independent Consultant
Over the course of her career, Brenda Bursey has been the owner of an independent pharmacy and an associate-owner for Shoppers Drug Mart. She developed an interest in the treatment of opioid addiction and became a prime mover in the development of the Opioid Dependence Treatment (ODT) program in Newfoundland and Labrador. Bursey is active in the Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, where she serves as an advocate for the Association’s interests on a vast array of matters, including negotiations with government.
How would you describe a great day at work? In a methadone practice you get to know patients on a very personal level. It is rewarding to be part of a process that helps people put their lives back together. In terms of advocacy work, great days can be few and far between as the wheels of change move slowly, but wins for the patient and the profession are all the better as a result.
What is or has been your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy? There are many challenges. Numerous critics don’t see methadone as an effective opioid addictions treatment. Further, Newfoundland and Labrador is a large, rural province and it is difficult to find pharmacists and other healthcare professionals willing to get involved. Participation challenges also exist with respect to advocacy. Further, it is a constant battle to get government to value the services pharmacists provide.
Describe an “aha” moment, when you realized you were making a difference.
I remember my first methadone patient and my father’s words, “If a patient has a prescription, you have an obligation to fill it.” Initially, I was hesitant to get involved. However, when I later attended a Christmas party at the ODT clinic for patients and their families, the positive impact of methadone became clear to me. Another rewarding experience was the culmination of a contract with the provincial government for paid pharmacy services. A great deal of hard work was rewarded.
What challenges does the profession face in showing the value of pharmacy to health care? It has been difficult to convince governments that significant savings and other benefits can be achieved by fully utilizing the skills of pharmacists in providing services typically left to other healthcare professionals. Government needs to establish a long-term vision, moving away from a singular focus on costs and silo budgets.
How can pharmacists more effectively ensure their value to the health system is recognized? A committed advocacy group, supported by the profession at large, is required to effectively pursue issues of importance to the healthcare system. Pharmacists ought to recognize and understand these issues. Levels of involvement can range from direct advocating to something as simple as answering a survey that is sent out by a provincial association. Further, the value of public opinion cannot be overstated. Public awareness and trust in the skills and services that pharmacists provide will allow patients to become the most formidable allies of all in terms of supporting pharmacists’ agenda within the healthcare system.
Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada Inc.