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​Pharmacy student gets maximum dose of collaboration

When pharmacy student Tina Sykes had a question during her co-op placement something funny always happened.

After voicing her query in the pharmacy office, four chairs would suddenly swivel around to face her at the exact same moment, with choreographed precision.

The 28-year-old student in her third year at the University of Waterloo chuckled at this unscripted move before welcoming the always helpful responses.

Tina’s summer as the lone student accepted into Holland Bloorview’s Pharmacy Co-op Program has been so impactful, she wants to focus on pediatrics after she graduates.

When asked how much Holland Bloorview played a role in her decision she quickly answered, “That is the reason.”

For the past four months Tina has been involved in the hospital’s respite camps, overseeing medication plans as well as support for the kids and families taking part. But that’s just the beginning.

When Tina first arrived she was shocked to learn the pharmacy team wanted to know the best way for her to learn.

“They tailor (the program) to each student,” she said. “You do a questionnaire to see what type of learner you are and then describe how you want to be taught.”

From admission to discharge

After that was established, she loved being involved in the entire care spectrum.

“Pharmacy students get to see the whole process,” said Tina. “We get to collaborate with medical students, doctors, nurses, therapists…the whole team. We get to do some of the drug information questions for pharmacists, physicians or nurses. Or, we get to help out with some of the research projects whenever we can.”

She also loved the Interprofessional Education (IPE) component of her placement, which gave her a deeper understanding of how different healthcare fields work together.  

“The interprofessional education here is unbelievable,” said Tina, noting she gained valuable insight into the work of occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech therapists. “They put us together from different professions and we worked on patient cases and collaborated weekly.”

“It's amazing how we get to collaborate with each other,” she added. “It helps you respect and appreciate other people in care. I will definitely take that with me everywhere now.”

Client and Family-centred pharmacy

That collaboration also extended to clients and families. So often with adults their medication plan is fairly straight forward but with kids and their families there were so many more discussions and questions.  Tina loved the interaction with families to create  the best plan.

“I love working with the kids here,” she said. “They are so positive and resilient and full of life. It’s so rewarding to see the differences made in their lives after their time here.”

What also made her placement so enriching was how the other students, clinicians and staff immediately made her feel like an important part of the team.  

“The amount of respect a student gets here is amazing,” she said. “I can walk up to anyone, , no matter what they're doing, they will stop, look at me and address my questions or concerns.”

Co-op program is a win-win

Nathan Ho, Holland Bloorview’s Director of Pharmacy Services is quick to point out that when students like Tina have a positive experience, everyone benefits.

“Tina is our sixth student from the University of Waterloo,” said Nathan. “And every time has been an exceptional experience not only for the student but also for our hospital and our team. They make such an important impact on clinical care.”

“They leave here with broad experience, and it prepares them for the final year of their education,” he continued. “And it definitely prepares them to be exceptional pharmacists. They will know how to collaborate and partner with the broader health care team, so that ultimately the kids and families will benefit the most.”

Currently, about 60 percent of the hospital’s pharmacy staff are former students, and Tina would love to increase that percentage.

“I would absolutely love to work at Holland Bloorview when I’m done school!” she beamed. “It’s the perfect environment to grow and constantly be challenged. Knowing it’s a team approach makes everything seem possible.”