An interview with a pharmacist

I have wanted to be a pharmacist since grade 11 and even on the busy days I know I still made the right choice. I think it is a profession that I fit well in and I love what I do. My name is Robin McGuire and I am a pharmacy graduate from the University of Toronto, Ontario.

I am currently a staff pharmacist at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Owen Sound. It is a small town of 22,000 people, 50% seniors. I have been a pharmacist in this store for four years this September, and time sure has flown. I have learned the names of most of the regular customers, and I am often the pharmacist they ask for. It is a proud feeling to be asked for by name, or description for that matter. I am ‘the little girl pharmacist’ if you are ever in Owen Sound and want to say hello. 

What educational path did you take to become a pharmacist?I did an undergraduate degree at Western University, in London Ontario. I feel that a great deal of my ‘educational path’ occurred in a pharmacy though. I started working in a pharmacy when I was about 15 and in the dispensary when I was 16. I had a mentor who showed me what a pharmacist could be, what they should be. It was a multidisciplinary team before that was a buzz word.

Did you always want to become a pharmacist?By grade 11 I had decided that a pharmacist would be my career path. I decided what I wanted to do before I even knew the work involved in getting to that designation.

Describe a typical day for a pharmacist?One thing that retail pharmacy is not, is typical. There are very few days that run the same. If anything there are seasonal patterns. For example summer is poison ivy, bug bites, lice, wound and sunburn time. The diversity of each day, though sometimes exhausting, is one of the best parts of being a community pharmacist. It keeps you on your toes and alert at all times.

What factors should students consider when choosing a pharmacy degree and institution?I feel very strongly about being exposed to the profession before entering it. I think that trying to work in community, hospital, industry or other areas you can find a pharmacist is important. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work in many areas which gave me a better outlook on all the directions a pharmacy degree can take you in.

Why do you think international students looking to study pharmacy should go to Canada to study?I think that Canada is a beautiful country to start with, filled with interesting and diverse people. While in school I was U of T’s representative on the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns (CAPSI) Board and this gave me the opportunity to meet with students from all over Canada. I think all the different faculties have different features to offer, just as each part of Canada has different benefits.

How do you keep up to date on developments within your industry?I have tried to stay involved in the world of pharmacy locally by collaborating with local groups and community organizations. I have done talks on diabetes for both patients and other health care providers. I have been involved with the local health unit on safe medication disposal and reduction of drug use in teens. Provincially I sit on the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) Board of Directors. Then I am also the New Practitioner Representative on the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) Board. I find talking directly with the people making changes is the best way to stay up to date. Conferences for these organisations are also a great way to meet people and learn how they have implemented new programs into their work environment. Sometimes all you need is a bit of direction to help you get your own programs off the ground and you can find this in many of the great pharmacists in Canada.

What is the best and worst thing about your job?The best thing about retail pharmacy is the people, and the worst thing is the people. Being able to help someone better manage their disease state for example is a great feeling but being yelled at for not having refills of someone’s prescription is not so great a feeling. But I look for two things in my day to make me feel successful: one belly laugh and one feeling of truly helping someone, making their day better.

What advice do you wish you had received from a professional while you were still a student?I received a lot of good advice as a student. This is where the work experience aspect of student life falls into play. It is very helpful to have a pharmacist in your life when you are a student, to talk with, bounce ideas off, and discuss current topics with. I would recommend that students get involved in their pharmacy program wholeheartedly, you will learn a lot outside of the classroom as well and make great friends along the way.