A day in the life
This program prepares students really well, in terms of critical thinking, appraising research, searching for information, communication skills and translating their findings in writing. All of these skills transfer nicely to a lot of the research that happens here.
A range of perspectives
When Andrea Murphy was considering career options, her high school guidance counselor suggested engineering. Ultimately, it was her older sisters who provided guidance: “One of them was a pharmacist, and the next oldest was a nurse,” she explains. “I was looking for something that involved interacting with people, and I was interested in biology – I guess something spoke to me about health care.”
She didn't stop with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy: “I did a hospital pharmacy residency after graduating, and then a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, and then a Fellowship in Drug Use Management and Policy,” she explains. She also spent 10 years in Dal’s School of Nursing as a professor and researcher. “I’ve really enjoyed all the different opportunities and getting different perspectives.”
Taking More Than Meds into the community
She’s also excited about research. One current project is the multidisciplinary More Than Meds program, which she hopes will reach community pharmacists in over 300 community pharmacies in Nova Scotia, many in rural areas. This program is capitalizing on the strengths of pharmacists and the knowledge of people with lived experience of mental illness in their communities. “One thing we’re working on is trying to improve the community pharmacy care of people with this experience,” she explains.
The program pairs a pharmacist with a person in the community, with benefits to both: the pharmacist gains new insights into the resources available to the person, such as parent support groups or the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, while the person gains better knowledge of the various services offered by pharmacists, including medication management and health system navigation support. She notes that this project is one manifestation of her belief that pharmacists can be greater advocates of health and wellness in their communities as the scope of pharmacy practice expands.
These are some of the concepts she brings into the classes she teaches. “So much of what pharmacists do involves asking people to change behaviors: ‘You didn’t take this med before, now you do,’ or ‘You’re trying to quit smoking.’ Or, ‘It would be great if you could modify your diet in concert with taking this medication.’ So we incorporate strategies to get students to consider behaviour change in the context of the community pharmacy” and even in the context of a hospital stay.
Dr. Murphy teaches “the social and administrative content” of the Pharmacy program: “It’s very broad,” she explains. “It could go from the social determinants of health of populations to managing the people, things, and money in your practice. Within that, we also look at professionalism and ethics and so on.”
“I love working with students,” she says. “They’re very inspiring, and they’re very often passionate about learning. The student interaction is really refreshing. And they are the future of our profession. So it’s nice to be involved with them as they go through that process of becoming a pharmacist.”