Pharmacy U

This pharmacist became a travel health expert

mar19 2014-Pharmacy Business-Lisa Woodhill-Sobeys-Halifax NS-photo by Aaron McKenzie

The number of pharmacists with national and international certification is increasing in every jurisdiction in Canada. 

By Mike Boivin, BSc.Phm.

Without question, these designations increase their clinical skillset and identify these pharmacists as leaders in the management of a variety of conditions.

The issue for many practitioners is determining how they can use these skills not only to improve patient care but also generate a revenue stream for the pharmacy. Without a viable business strategy, this education will not be fully integrated into their practice.

Increasingly, there are pharmacists who have learned how to transform their passion for higher education into a viable business opportunity. Lisa Woodill is a perfect example of the new breed of pharmacists who use their skills to enhance patient outcomes and at the same time generate significant income and dramatically increase their job satisfaction.

While on maternity leave in 2010, Lisa, a pharmacist at Sobeys in Halifax, decided there was an opportunity to combine her passion for patient care and travel. “I love to travel and have visited areas all around the world.  I felt that there was an opportunity to bring this passion to my pharmacy practice.”

She researched travel certification and decided she would become a member of the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) and start preparing to challenge the travel certification exam. Unlike many pharmacists interested in certification who study alone, she met and developed a network of physicians, pharmacists and nurses also interested in travel medicine. “We would video chat every Sunday. It demonstrated the value of collaboration and allowed each of us to share our unique perspectives to travel medicine and I believe better prepared us for the exam.”

Collaboration is key

Many pharmacists pass certification exams, but it is the exceptional clinicians who find the best method of integrating their advanced education into their day-to-day business. “I decided if I was going to make this happen in my practice I would have to develop a plan.” Lisa realized that with her current scope of practice in Nova Scotia she would need to collaborate with a physician. Through her positive experience of working closely with other healthcare professionals, she realized that a collaborative practice could offer patients in Halifax a complete travel medicine experience. Patients would benefit from the expertise of two travel medicine experts.

She developed a business plan and brought it to Sobeys’ management, who recognized an opportunity and allowed her to trial it in her store. Once given the green light, Lisa has never looked back and has fully captured what pharmacists can do with the knowledge, a collaborative practice and the support of their employer.

Success from the start

Now called The Travel Wellness Clinic, the Sobeys Halifax program started in the first year with a total of four hours per week. It’s been so successful that today Lisa needs to dedicate two full days to managing travel health in her practice.

“Looking back, I am so pleased with the results. I get to go to work to do something that I love and have the opportunity to share in the excitement of discussing travels with so many people from across my region.”

And patients love the service. “Some patients come in with a list of vaccines they have printed from the internet.  They may balk at the thought of having to pay for a travel consultation when they feel they can tell me what they need.” After the consultation they almost always change their tune, and can see the true value of having a pharmacist with travel expertise make individualized recommendations for their trip.

“They are shocked when I actually make completely different recommendations and they learn why my suggestions will better protect them on their trip.”

For Lisa, success boils down to training, dedication and a lot of planning. Her practice has been so successful that Sobeys expanded the service to other regions of the country.

“I would tell every pharmacist to make the most out of every opportunity they are given,” she says. “I knew that this would work and I could show the benefit to both my patients and the business. I was fortunate to have the support of my employers, but it also took hard work and passion to bring my travel health practice to where it is today.”