March is Pharmacy Awareness Month across Canada – an annual event to celebrate the pharmacy profession. Across Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), pharmacy departments include clinical pharmacists; dispensary and medication management pharmacists; and pharmacy technicians and assistants – who each play active roles in ensuring that patients receive safe, effective and appropriate medication therapy.
Dawn Warkentin is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist in Lions Gate Hospital's chemotherapy clinic. Her role focuses on providing patient-oriented care as part of a multi-disciplinary team. The oncology pharmacist is often one of the few team members who fully understand the safety, efficacy, pharmacology and financial components of patient care.
On any given day, Dawn may be providing advice on individualized drug therapy for patients, sharing information and educating her colleagues in the chemotherapy clinic as well as other health professionals, or working directly with patients to help them navigate their drug therapy treatment safely and effectively, and minimize adverse effects.
Dawn was drawn to pharmacy as she liked the personal connection with patients, as well as, with the pace at which new drugs come out, the opportunity to be continuously learning. “This field is really appealing to people who are more patient-oriented," she notes. “Especially with people on oral therapy, I get to know them quite well and follow their treatment journey. And with all patients, I like knowing I've played a part in ensuring they have the best possible outcome."
Dawn came to VCH 24 years ago, after taking specialized training in stem cell transplant in the US. She spent 22 years at VGH's Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, moving to LGH two years ago, interested in the challenges presented by new chemotherapy treatments and drugs, and developments in therapies for solid tumour groups.
When asked how she impacts patient care, Dawn said that she's “always looking at ways to make things safer. I love walking into a system and seeing how we can make it better – how we can improve flow or communication – which ultimately leads to an improved experience for patients."