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Pharmacist – Caitlin Holden

Caitlin Holden is a Staff Pharmacist at the La Ronge Health Centre. She is originally from southern Ontario and moved to the northern community of La Ronge to further her career as a Pharmacist. Check out her profession spotlight below:

What do you do as a Staff Pharmacist in the La Ronge Health Centre? Can you describe a typical work day?

“As a Staff Pharmacist I am primarily responsible for overseeing medication management and safe practices for patients on the acute care ward and the emergency department. We start the day by participating in patient rounds where we have the opportunity to work with other healthcare providers. During rounds, I would speak on any drug therapy problems a patient may encounter, offer therapeutic recommendations, and discuss with physicians on how we best manage patient care. On the clinical side, different healthcare providers come to me everyday to ask medication related questions or have me consult with their patients regarding their medications to get them prepared for discharge from the hospital. In addition to the clinical aspects, I also oversee other staff members in the Pharmacy such as Pharmacy Technicians and Assistants to make sure that medications are being dispensed and stored properly. Other duties include unit dose packaging, stocking medication carts, preparing medication for patients on the ward, narcotics and inventory management. Working at a small centre like La Ronge, you really get to experience all aspects of the pharmacy as a whole.”

What technical skills or personality traits pair well with being a Pharmacist?

“A lot of people refer to Pharmacists as a Type A personality so we are very organized and detail- orientated. You need to be able to sit down and look at all aspects of a patients care in order to consider if medications are safe and appropriate to manage the patients health. You also need to focus on efficiency as you manage your time and resources in order to provide care for multiple patients with different needs. Being welcoming and caring are other strong personality traits because patients come to pharmacists directly to ask questions regarding their medications and medical conditions.”

How is your work-life balance as Pharmacist in La Ronge? How does it compare with other roles you had in the past?

“I previously worked as a community pharmacist in La Ronge before joining the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and there was not a lot of work-life balance in that role. The transition into my current role has improved my work-life balance as the hours are really great, Monday to Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, no weekends and we get every third Friday off which is a lot better compared to my retail experience. Having an extra-long weekend has helped me embrace La Ronge and the surrounding area a lot more which I did not have the opportunity to do while working in retail due to having to work overtime, evenings and weekends. I also worked in a bigger hospital in Ontario which was a busier lifestyle due to the need to work evenings and weekends. The overall work-life balance my current role provides is way better than my previous experiences.”

What do you enjoy about living in La Ronge?

“Living in La Ronge really helps work-life balance because everything is so close. My commute to work is only a five minute drive, I get to go home for my lunch break which a lot of people overlook. La Ronge is also a paradise for a outdoor enthusiast so if you love the outdoors there are so many things you can do to connect with nature.”  

Why did you choose Saskatchewan?

“All I knew growing up in Ontario was life in bigger cities. All my practicum experiences were in bigger pharmacies and practice settings so I was looking for a change after graduating from my pharmacy program. So I wanted to explore other options and had some friends who were pilots in La Ronge that expressed to me the opportunities for pharmacists in the small northern community that caught my attention. Saskatchewan also offers expanded scope of practice for pharmacists that Ontario did not have at the time such as having the ability to prescribe medications and access patients so that was a big motivating factor . So I decided to try something completely different in La Ronge and I have been here for almost five years now.”

Have you always wanted to be a Pharmacist?

“I was not always entirely sold on becoming a pharmacist right out of high school. I knew early on that I had a passion for healthcare or at least wanted to pursue some type of career in healthcare but I did not know what that was even at the beginning of university. So I started my studies in Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences but I quickly figured out that being stuck in a lab all day was not for me because I was missing that interaction with other people. I was still really interested in the medication side of things and knowing side effects and how medications work within the body but wanted more of the patient interaction. So that was the first thing that caught my interest in pursuing a career as a pharmacist because it marries being a medication expert with having a direct impact on patient care.

Tell us more about your career path.

After deciding to pursue pharmacy, I focused on the prerequisites before applying and getting accepted into the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of Waterloo. The four year program was amazing that really focused on integrating practice experience into the program so you are more prepared when you graduate. After graduation, I needed to pass the national exam in order to obtain a license to practice. The exam consisted of a written and practical scenario tests. After obtaining my license, I started my career in a big hospital in Ontario that was a similar size to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. I appreciated the opportunity to work in the emergency department in that role but I quickly learned that it was not for me as I wanted to explore more practice options as a pharmacist which lead me to working in community clinic in La Ronge and now to my current role as a hospital pharmacist.”

Are there opportunities to further your career with the Saskatchewan Health Authority?

“The great thing about being pharmacist is that there are a ton of growth opportunities. Specifically with the SHA, there are many opportunities to go into management positions and focus on more specialized areas of care to build your skills. SHA is very supportive of career development if you are wanting to become more specialized in an area and will supply educational opportunities for you to grow. For example, we have a lot of pallative care patients in La Ronge so the SHA funded a palliative care course that I took to gain a better understanding of patients in that area. Overall, SHA encouraged and supports your professional development.”

What is unique to practising in a northern community?

“La Ronge helps supply other communities with medication to support patient needs. Some remote communities are only accessible by plane and so sometimes as a pharmacist you will fly up to the communities and help consult patients or help with medication management. We also support remote communities by phone or virtually when applicable. Its definitely a unique practice experience compared to other rural and urban communities.”

What advice would you give to students looking to pursue a career as a Pharmacist?

“First and foremost, try and experience a pharmacy before committing to becoming a pharmacist as it is a very competitive area and career path to pursue. Before I decided to become a pharmacist, I worked a summer job in pharmacy just to see if I liked it and to gain that additional exposure. Whether as an assistant or even a cashier, there are many opportunities to work in a pharmacy. Pharmacists love to educate and tend to be open to having you shadow their work so you learn more about the profession. For new graduates, consider smaller communities like La Ronge to start your career in. Smaller centres expose you to a larger variety of patient medical conditions which makes you more well rounded as a pharmacist. The broader scope of practice also allows you the opportunity to pursue a specialized area of care if you are interested for further career advancement.”

What is the number one thing you love about being a Pharmacist?

“Best thing about being a pharmacist is being able to help people. I like to think of pharmacists as the unsung heroes of healthcare. Lots of people tend to forget about us because we tend to work in the background especially in the hospital setting but I am proud knowing that I am playing a daily role in patients taking control of their health and having them better understand their healthcare as a whole. I highly recommend becoming a pharmacist as its a profession that is expanding its scope of practice and will continue to be a play a key role in improving our healthcare system as whole.”