Pilot project brings IWK pharmacists into outpatient clinics

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“It’s quite different from everything we are used to doing as pharmacists,” says Jaime McDonald, a pharmacist at IWK Health. “Up until now we have only had pharmacists covering inpatient areas and the pharmacy dispensary.”

A pilot project at IWK Health is putting pharmacists in outpatient clinics where they will be able to work closely with patients and families that need care but are not admitted to the hospital.

Working in collaboration with the Medical Day Assessment and Treatment Unit (MDATU) care team McDonald and pharmacist Jennifer Bessey are able provide assessment and prescribing. They also work directly with patients on dosage estimates, renewing prescriptions, and advocate on behalf of patients for insurance coverage of medications.

Pharmacist Jennifer Bessey

“This role has long been required for a population of often complex patients,” says Bessey. “Initiating a new role comes with its challenges but I am excited to see where we can take this position.”

Outpatient clinics have a large number of patients and the workload is heavy, so having a pharmacist available has advantages for both the care team and the patient.

“Having access to a medication expert who works collaboratively with the whole team managing the child’s condition, alleviates some concerns as well as facilitates a more efficient resolution to some of their medication related problems,” says Melanie MacInnis, Professional Practice Leader for Pharmacy at IWK Health. “A pharmacist is an expert in identifying and resolving any unexpected effects of their medication therapy and will work with the patient to find a suitable alternative.”

Pharmacists are also able to provide education on changes in medication therapy and follow-up through virtual care or by phone.

“Families are very happy to have this new resource available to them,” says Bessey. “Living with a chronic illness is challenging and the more support we can offer families the better!”

The pharmacists also see a huge personal benefit to being immersed in the outpatient population.

Pharmacist Jaime McDonald

“I have truly enjoyed forming ongoing relationships with patients and families,” says McDonald. “I have always felt the absence of these relationships when working through the constant patient turnover in acute care.”

Bessey agrees wholeheartedly.

“Talking with families whom you will be working with for many years and developing new relationships with them is very rewarding,” she says.

The role has also allowed the pharmacists to provide care outside the four walls of the health centre. Patients as far away as PEI are able to access the service.

“Having that expertise available to wide a geographical area is definitely unique to the Maritimes,” says McDonald.

The project started on December 1, 2020 in the MDATU and will run for one year at which point it will be evaluated.

“To me, this role represents the best of what pharmacists can offer in hospitals and in the community’” says McDonald. “Knowing that patients and families have a hospital pharmacist that they can know and reach out to has given this role a community feel. The work is challenging and rewarding and I am excited to see the position and the children it reaches grow.”

March is Pharmacy Appreciation Month.