March 05, 2018

Pharmacy Awareness Month Profile Series, Part I: Linda Morris



Q: What inspired you to become a hospital pharmacist?

A: I was always interested in science at school and then I landed a part-time job in a local community pharmacy — that piqued my interest.

I began my pharmacy career in the UK where I worked for a couple of years before taking a position in the Middle East, in the United Arab Emirates. That’s where I met my English husband, a paediatric nurse. After four years in the Middle East, we considered returning to health care in the UK, but it wasn’t too promising at the time.

We had visited my sister-in-law in Canada while on holiday and learned of the desperate need for pharmacists. So, in 1987 we moved to Canada after I landed a job at Sick Kids in Toronto. We had always wanted to come out to BC and moved to the West Coast in 1990. I’ve been with my current hospital since 1995.

Q: How has the hospital pharmacy landscape changed since you began your career?

A: What’s really changed the pharmacy landscape is more appreciation for the role of the pharmacist. I’ve certainly seen that in Canada where the requests to have a pharmacist aligned with a specific program or nursing unit have increased. When we first started, we were always trying to market ourselves and tell people what we could do. We’re now increasingly being asked to participate in different aspects of patient care.

Q: How has your role changed over the years?

A: Quite frankly, over these almost 40 years, there are very few parts of hospital pharmacy within which I haven’t been involved, from drug information and parenteral services to automation and the implementation of significant projects and facility design.

The practice of pharmacy is so varied; that generates opportunities. Over the years, I’ve just added on layers. I’ve never been very good at saying “no.” As opportunities arose, I tended to add them to my portfolio. From a leadership point of view, I’ve gone from a coordinator, to a manager and now to the director level since 2007. For the past two years, I’ve been responsible for two hospital campuses and about 200 staff under my direct responsibility.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you feel pharmacists face in hospital pharmacy today?

A: The ability to stay current is a genuine challenge. Drug technology is advancing so quickly. Once upon a time, pharmacists could know pretty much everything there was to know about most drugs on the shelves. That’s not the case any more with complex drugs like genetic-targeting drugs. It’s all very exciting and new but it means that pharmacists are going the way of physicians. They need to become specialists in a particular field. It is going to be harder to remain a generalist. Along with that, succession planning for specialist pharmacists will be challenging.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of being a hospital pharmacist?

A: The opportunity to see hospital pharmacists contribute to safe patient care. And how, as they come in as new pharmacists in the hospital, they are like sponges. They arrive with so much knowledge—far more than I did when I began.  They learn so quickly. They can make a significant difference in patient care. To me, that is so rewarding.

Q: What is the most interesting or exciting prospect you see on the horizon for hospital pharmacy?

A: It’s exciting the way technology is going. I think we’re still struggling a little bit with integrating that technology to make the best use of it. But, I only see that getting better. It’s like anything. It will grow; and we will grow with it.

Also, the expanded role of pharmacy techs is a great leap forward in Canada. In British Columbia, seeing pharmacy technicians become licenced professionals and assume those roles is exciting. I know it will contribute to the growth of the pharmacy profession.

What I’m also seeing in BC is a growth in ambulatory and clinical care that includes pharmacy. It means integrating a group of out-patient clinics (cardiology, for example) into the hospital umbrella. The pharmacist is a hospital pharmacist but he or she is aligned with an out-patient centre. In the past, we haven’t seen many pharmacists working in these clinical environments.  We even have a group of pharmacists conducting post-discharge visits in patients’ homes. That’s another exciting direction.

Q: Do you have any advice you’d like to offer upcoming pharmacists and pharmacy technicians?

A: Over the coming years they will need to be more prepared than ever for practice changes which will come about because of therapy innovations and the availability of new technologies.

I would also add this to my advice: take time to understand personal change management strategies and be open and willing to embrace the opportunities presented to you.