Managing cancer medications and medications taken for other health reasons may seem like a daunting task. But with expert pharmacists in GRH’s regional cancer program like Anna Granic, managing medications safety and effectively ensures patients receive the best possible care.
Anna has been a pharmacist in the cancer program for two decades and is dedicated to ensuring patients receive the right medication, at the right time.
1. What does it mean to be a pharmacist in the cancer program?
An oncology pharmacist is an integral part of a patients’ health care team. We work in partnership with oncologists, nurses and other allied health professionals to make sure our patients are getting the safest and optimal treatment to treat their disease.
2. What does your average day look like?
Our day starts early in the cancer centre since patients are coming in for treatment as early as 8am. We check blood work, confirm that doses are optimal for the size of a patient, as well as how well their kidneys and liver are working. Pharmacists continually collaborate with the nurses administering the chemotherapy to make sure it is being administered in the safest manner.
3. How do you support patients receiving different types of chemotherapy as cancer treatment?
Oncology pharmacists are in the chemotherapy suite talking to all new patients about their cancer treatment and their supportive medications. Some regimens can be very complicated, so more time may need to be spent in reviewing this information with the patient and their family. We talk to patients about any symptoms they might be experiencing and discuss options on how to best manage them. Some medications are very expensive and not covered by provincial benefit plans so in collaboration with the oncology program drug access facilitator, drug coverage options are investigated before the patient can start treatment.
4. How does being a pharmacist in the cancer program differ from other programs in the hospital?
An oncology pharmacist has to be knowledgeable in many aspects of a cancer patient’s care since our patients may have other medical conditions that still have to be managed throughout their cancer treatment (e.g. malnutrition, cardiac, mental illness, pain). We have to confirm that the medications they are using for their other medical conditions are safe to use with their chemotherapy medications.
5. What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to someone receiving chemotherapy?
For anyone going through treatment, the information given can be overwhelming. It is important to continue asking questions to make sure that the information is clear. If possible, bring a family member or friend to appointments so that they can also hear the information being delivered. It is so important to report significant side effects and to take all supportive medications properly to help minimize side effects.
6. What do you find to be the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is two-fold:
a. I am privileged to be working side by side with a great health care team that values the expertise of their pharmacists.
b. Over the years, witnessing the physical, mental and spiritual strength of our cancer patients who come in for their treatment.