When she moved from Calgary, Shellie Kirkham had to wait three years for a pharmacy position to become available at the Department of National Defense in Cold Lake. Now, 17 years later, Shellie is a registered technician employed in a pharmacy assistant position through which she is an integral member of the multi-disciplinary team that provides healthcare to Canadian Armed Forces personnel. As a long standing member of the clinic, staff rely on Shellie for her pharmacy related skills as well as her extensive corporate knowledge.
Since graduating from Red Deer College in 1984, Shellie has held positions in both hospitals and community pharmacies. Although she works out of a clinic setting she says there are many similarities to a community pharmacy. In her day-to-day work, filling prescriptions for patients, special authorizations, preparing blister packs, as well as maintaining drug and medical supplies inventory are regular duties. First thing in the morning is a busy time for Shellie due to the “sick parade” – a large number of patients who require treatment waiting to be assessed and treated. Due to their status as military professionals most patients seen in the clinic aren’t very sick, but there are unique considerations that Shellie and the pharmacy team must be aware of. This includes restrictions on the medications a member of the air crew (pilots, navigators and air traffic controllers) can take. The demographic questions she asks of her patients are unique to the practice setting for this reason.
Similar to working in community, Shellie is often the patient’s first point of contact. One of the pieces of information Shellie always confirms with the patient is the indication for the medications they are being prescribed. She says that confirming as much information with the patient at the beginning of the interaction saves time during the processing of the prescription. She also finds it convenient being able to walk down the hallway to a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant’s office to have them clarify prescriptions. This is one of the benefits of working within a multi-disciplinary team setting.
But Shellie doesn’t stop at just gathering information from patients; she has taken the initiative to go above what is required of her job description as a pharmacy assistant to use her knowledge and research application skills to help identify potential drug therapy problems and bring them to the attention of the pharmacist. Shellie is very familiar with and regularly uses in practice point of care reference material that provides recommendations for the appropriate use of antibiotics. When Shellie receives an antibiotic prescription she confirms whether the prescribed therapy aligns with the resource’s recommendations and brings it immediately to a pharmacist’s attention. By working collaboratively with the pharmacist in this way, she contributes to antimicrobial stewardship and the judicious use of antibiotics. Working with the population she does, Shellie also regularly encounters patients who are visiting Canada from other countries. When a patient presents with an unfamiliar medication she will often do the research to identify the drug and whether the same medication is available in Canada and will present her references to the pharmacist and clinicians.
Shellie is a believer of “providing the whole package of care”. She knows it’s important to keep up to date on advances in pharmacy. She believes that “conferences can help you to learn about new developments”. Shellie has been attending the Annual Alberta Pharmacy Technician Conference since the inaugural event in 1990. In fact, she helped organize that first seminar held at the Rockyview Hospital.
When Shellie is not rising to the challenge of the evolving world of pharmacy she is spending time with her granddaughter or taking part in obstacle course racing. The first obstacle race Shellie completed three years ago was just for fun. Last year she completed six different obstacle races including the Rise Up Challenge and Tough Mudder. Whether it’s through her obstacle racing or professional life, Shellie is conquering obstacles she never thought possible. She “just keeps going”; there’s always “…more and more things that I can do”.