March 15, 2017

HealthPRO Pharmacist Profile Series, Part III: Marc Geirnaert


Q:What inspired you to become a hospital pharmacist?

A: In my fourth year of pharmacy at the University of Manitoba, I did a five-week rotation at CancerCare Manitoba. I liked oncology: the regimens, the treatments, the supportive care. I felt it was meaningful work in terms of helping patients. This was my only exposure to hospital pharmacy. Up until this point, I was gearing my career towards retail pharmacy. It’s all I knew.

In the hospital setting, I liked the labs, the multi-disciplinary feel and the collaboration. I liked learning and going on morning rounds. I especially liked dealing with the challenges an acute care setting presents. That’s what attracted me to hospital pharmacy: the complexity and the urgency.

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

A: Hospital pharmacists play a bigger role. We have gone away from the vision of someone “counting pills behind a counter” to having more in-depth knowledge of drugs to deal with complex medical issues. This is especially significant in the hospital setting when things are acute. You must react quickly to situations. And, there are many more drugs today; therefore, more drug interactions, especially with oncology drug therapies.


Q: How has your role evolved?

A: I worked as a pharmacist and in clinics, one day a week, at CancerCare Manitoba for eight years, then became a senior pharmacist of operations. That role involved scheduling and training of new pharmacists. I became a director of the Provincial Oncology Program in 2014. This is primarily an administrative role. I enjoy the challenges that come with it, even managing budgets!

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

A: The number of new drugs on the market. Any newcomer to hospital pharmacy needs to know way more than I ever did when I first started. It is challenging for pharmacists to “keep up with the times.” Pharmacists are constantly learning and gaining new knowledge just to keep up with new classes of drugs. It keeps you sharp.

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

A: Our healthcare system is only going to get busier as the Baby Boomer generation ages. The role of the hospital pharmacist will become even more important in the future. Ensuring we are good stewards of healthcare by creating appropriate drug therapies is exciting and challenging at the same time.

Q: What is the one thing you’d like readers to know about the hospital pharmacy supply chain?

A: Many people just assume drugs get delivered. Most people don’t appreciate the many aspects involved in the hospital supply chain. For example, proper inventory control to make sure that if a drug shortage occurs, we can come up with an alternative that will work for patients and physicians. There is making sure that cold chain drugs remain cold chained from vendor to hospital. We take many steps behind the scenes to ensure drug safety for patients. We discuss barcode technology and minimizing errors in labelling. Safety in packaging is critical, especially with highly toxic chemotherapy drugs. 


Q: How does being part of a national GPO help you strengthen patient safety?

A: I am a great believer that you learn from others’ experience so it’s good to hear about others’ challenges. I like to know what’s worked for them, and what hasn’t. If we have similar issues, we can share ideas. In some cases, you learn of another hospital’s issue and it may be something you’ve never thought of before. Another benefit of being a part of a GPO is you can strengthen patient safety by going to the manufacturers as ”one force.”


Q: How does being part of a national GPO help bring value to the hospital pharmacy supply chain?

A: The obvious value is financial via volume purchasing. The other value is learning from each other; while it doesn’t have a direct financial benefit, it is significant.