Annemarie is a pharmacist at Toronto General Hospital.
What is your morning routine?
Living in the suburbs and working in the city forces me to start my day early. When I get to work, the first thing I do is check my email to see if there are any patient, nurse or physician emails to answer. Throughout my day, I get drug information questions from these individuals and ensure I respond in a timely manner. After emails are checked, I head to clinic, which starts at 8:00 a.m. and I begin to see scheduled patients. After clinic, the whole team meets around a table to discuss each patient and give their input on management. It is a very inclusive and respectful group and I am lucky to be a part of it.
The days I’m not in my clinic I head up to the nephrology floor to find out if there are any newly admitted patients and if so, I meet with them to conduct a medication history to ensure medications are ordered appropriately during their hospital stay. I then meet with physicians or fellows to reconcile any differences or make recommendations on drug therapy.
Tell us about your career path
I often thought about a profession in pharmacy, even when I was in high school, but assumed I wasn’t smart enough. I started my university years at York University in a combined bio-chem major. While I always liked science courses in the past, some of the university science courses I was required to take were not interesting. I became discouraged thinking about my future and what I wanted to do. I didn’t see myself working in a laboratory the rest of my life. I wanted to interact with and help people so I hoped my education would lead to something in healthcare. I remember meeting an old friend in one of my biology courses who mentioned the possibility of applying to the faculty of pharmacy. My interest in pharmacy resurfaced, but this time with a little more confidence. I thought why not try, what do I have to lose? So I applied and wrote the entrance test. To my surprise, I was granted acceptance to the faculty of pharmacy of the University of Toronto. I was beyond excited and scared at the same time.
After graduating I applied to a few residency programs. A residency program is a year of more extensive experience in a hospital setting. It allows students to advance their clinical skills so that they are better prepared to practice as a pharmacist in a hospital setting. I was impressed with the program at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) and luckily landed a position there along with two other classmates. Although it felt like an extra year of school, I knew hospital was where I wanted to work so I sacrificed and am glad I did.
At the same time I got a part time job at a local independent pharmacy to make some extra money and get some experience in community pharmacy. After my residency year I started working on the general internal medicine floor. This was a great area to continue to learn and advance my skills. Being a teaching hospital, TGH allowed me to continually learn and also gave me the opportunity to teach incoming pharmacy students. I was able to be an important part of the healthcare team working with many different doctors, nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists, and social workers.
After a few years I transitioned to the nephrology area. I realized how valuable a pharmacists’ expertise was for medication dosing in patients with reduced kidney function. This specialty area led me to ambulatory practice where I currently work. I work as part of a multidisciplinary team caring for patients with chronic kidney disease. I sit down with patients weekly to do a full medication assessment, provide education on safe medication use, and identify drug therapy issues that need to be resolved with the nephrologist. I consult with physicians, dieticians and nurses to solve patient issues with the goal of preserving a patient’s kidney function. This position allows me to use my medication knowledge to help patients living with a chronic condition and allows me to build trusting relationships with both nephrologists and patients.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
Although the old perception of a pharmacist is the older white-haired male behind a tall pharmacy counter, the profession is actually dominated by young females. I would say the biggest challenge is when these women want to start a family. Having a one-year maternity leave really makes you feel out of touch with clinical practice and knowledge. Thankfully once women return to their workplace the knowledge quickly returns. Another great challenge I faced as a woman was returning to my job in a part-time capacity. Although this allows me to have a great work life balance and spend more time with my family, I have missed out on certain opportunities and advancement. On the flip side, I think the pharmacy professional is very well suited to women who want to have families because it allows you to work part time while also maintaining a very rewarding and important career.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
Don’t ever think a healthcare profession in pharmacy is not attainable. Don’t get boggled down with the statistics on how many people are accepted to programs and the minimum grades needed. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard, get good grades, and ensure you have all the prerequisites, however, not trying won’t lead you in the right direction.
Also, while in the pharmacy program you may have to sacrifice some Saturday night partying or lavish dinners with friends. Don’t let that get you down or make you think of giving up. You need to give it your all and work hard but in the end it will all be worth it. You will have a rewarding and important career and feel like you are making a positive difference in the lives of so many people.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
Working part time in the last few years has allowed me to have a great work life balance. My children and home life keep me busy enough that I often don’t have time to think about work at home. When at work, I try to complete all tasks on a given day to minimize passing on issues to another pharmacist and thinking about uncompleted tasks when I’m at home. That being said, there are times that some work needs to be completed at home, especially when teaching students or when working on mini projects. I just try not to make this the norm, or make it a daily habit that impedes on family time.
What inspires you?
Making a positive difference in a patient’s life inspires me to do what I do everyday. My recommendations to patients’ drug therapy often come with a lifestyle change and promoting a more positive lifestyle and seeing patients make these changes is very rewarding. The people I work with also inspire me. I work with some of the most intelligent and dedicated health professionals and being able to work alongside them pushes me to do a better job everyday.
Lastly, my children inspire me. They are the reason I try to succeed in my career. I work for their future and I think it is very important for them to see their mom dedicating time to work . I hope that will inspire them to do their best in school and also choose a rewarding career in the future.