The SEIU-West Education Committee sponsored two members to attend this year's Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan Conference. Below are the reports:

Anna Scappaticci

My name is Anna Scappaticci. I am a Pharmacy Technician. I attended the 2023 PAS conference, May 12-14th in Saskatoon, thanks to the generosity of SEIU WEST. I will provide a summary of my experience.
Over the course of the weekend, there were several very inspiring presentations.
Day 1 I just went down to the hotel to register.
Day 2 started with Allan Kehler who spoke about mental health, addictions, and how to help prevent burnout. This was not pharmacy specific, but incredibly uplifting and applicable to everyday life. Great way to start the day! After breakfast I attended “Practical approaches to the treatment and management of complex patients with concurrent pain, mental illnesses, and substance use disorders”. I think the content was extremely important. She spoke about the necessity of stabilizing a patient's mental illnesses and substance use disorder, prior to attempting decreasing their opioid doses. After lunch, the minister of health came and did a Q&A session. It was interesting to be a part of those kinds of discussions in person. I have only witnessed it on TV. The biggest topic that was discussed was the expansion of scope for pharmacists in Saskatchewan. Next up was a panel discussion. “Discussing the impacts of advanced prescriptive authority on the pharmacy profession and patient care”. This panel was made up of 3 individuals practicing different areas of pharmacy within the province. They spoke about their ability to expand their scope within their jobs, to include advanced prescriptive authority, and how it benefits their practices, but would also benefit pharmacists in all areas. Lastly, I attended a great presentation on “Optimizing care for communicable diseases in marginalized populations”. The speakers are from Regina and work in an area that has a lot of substance use disorders. They work with HIV and HEP C patients primarily. I learned that the oral antiretrovirals that are available now, do not cause resistance if not taken properly, and are only taken once daily. Which really helps with compliance. I also learned that there are now long-acting injections that somebody can take to manage their HIV which is a game changer. These injections currently last 2 months but are on track to lasting 6 months. Imagine only having to take 2 injections a year, and your HIV is almost completely manageable, but not just that – the lower your viral load, the less chance of transmission AND if a person’s viral load is undetectable, it’s untransmissible. That, in my opinion, is amazing!
Day 3 during breakfast, there was a “Women in leadership in pharmacy” presentation. It was inspiring to hear of her perseverance. She faced many struggles as a woman trying to climb the corporate ladder. She always dreamed of owning her own pharmacy, but in a male dominated society, it was very difficult. It was a good reminder of how far we have come with women’s rights. It makes me grateful.
“Resilience and change” was the next topic. This man went from being a homeless heroin addict in Vancouver’s East Hastings, to a very successful business owner. He runs a charity that gives back to the at-risk and homeless youth in Canada. He pushed a shopping cart all the way across Canada to raise awareness of the homelessness that affects youth. He mentioned (which I thought was important) that he didn’t just pull his socks up and get better.
He had a lot of people that invested in him. People who believed in him and took the time to help him. Although, I couldn’t help but wonder if his privilege had a lot to do with the help he received. He was a middle-aged white man when he lived on the streets. Unfortunately, systemic racism is very prevalent in Canada. I just can’t imagine the same investments would be made to somebody of colour, or maybe even a woman. It was a great story, and I don’t want to minimize his journey, but I think it is just so important to keep those things in the back of my mind. I must check my privilege daily.
Secondly, I attended another panel presentation. This time it was titled “Pharmacy professionals filling gaps in health care”. There were 4 people on the panel. There was even a Pharmacy Technician. This was a good reminder that we, as health care professionals, should focus our efforts on seeing a need and filling a need. Understanding the scope of our practice and recognizing where we could be of best help. They put a lot of emphasis on starting with the small things. Recognizing where we can step up and be of service to other health care professionals, allowing them to provide the best patient care. It is about working together. Trying to eliminate the hierarchy approach and realizing that each health care worker has their own set of skills, and finding where they are best used.
The presentation that wrapped up the weekend, was “Pharmacy professionals supporting indigenous health”. I shed a lot of tears during this one. I do not identify as indigenous or first nations, but I am an ally in pushing for reconciliation and change. This presentation touched on trying to incorporate the traditional healing practices of indigenous people, if it is requested. As this is not typically an option. When talking about the many historical injustices that indigenous people have faced, Amy (the presenter) said something that I don’t think I will ever forget. She said, “It is not your fault, but it is your problem.” Due to my privilege, I will never understand what it is like to be treated unfairly because of systemic racism. Indigenous people do not have the same access to healthcare. At a surface level it may appear that way, but many factors contribute to the unfair disadvantage they face. Some examples – without going into too much detail. Include but are not limited to: Non-Insured Health Benefits (time consuming and intricate), remote rural areas (ie reservations), systemic racism (even just down to the fear of being judged). I think that our society is taking steps in the right direction, but there is so much more work to be done. I think that not just as healthcare professionals, but as human beings, we must be part of the solution. We must do better and be better. Overall, this conference was insightful and inspiring. I took a lot away from it as an individual, but I think professionally it was lacking a little bit when it came specifically to my scope. PAS does not currently have Pharmacy Technicians as members. They are in the process of changing this. I think that, because of this, the weekend was primarily focused on Pharmacists, and even more specifically, community Pharmacists. It would have been nice to see a little bit more hospital specific or Pharmacy Technician specific presentations, but I think that will come. I left similar feedback to PAS, just saying that it would be nice to have taken away something that I could directly apply to my practice. However, it was an eye-opener in many ways for me, and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend.
Many thanks,
Anna Scappaticci

Cathy Phillips

The PAS Conference started with a presentation on Mental Health: Finding Your Voice by Allan Kellar. He told an inspiring story on how he made his way through addictions and mental health issues. The biggest take away from his presentation Was the importance of caring for oneself - You must put your oxygen mask on before helping others, 

The next session I attended was Practical Approaches to the Treatment and Management of Complex Patients with Concurrent Pain, Mental Illnesses and Substance Use Disorders. Spoke on the ways different factors can impact a patient's care and certain steps to take to manage the factors. Also spoke on risk factors to having multiple medications and the warning signs associated. 

The Minister of Health did a speech and a Q&A next. It was nice to see that they are putting an emphasis on getting professionals to work to their full scope.

The session I attended next was a panel discussion on the impacts of advanced prescriptive authority on the pharmacy profession and patient care, The Pharmacists on this panel described their practice setting and how their jobs have developed with prescriptive authority and how they get really better serve those patients. It was intriguing to see how prescribers have embraced the Pharmacists in these positions. Each spoke how it was a slow start but now have such increased patient loads and had to limit the patients they took to the ones that could really benefit from the service. 

The final session I attended for the day was Optimizing Care for Communicable Diseases in Marginalized Populations. Dr Wong was very passionate about the work he does. It is a very unfortunate situation Saskatchewan is in with such drastic increases in these communicable diseases. He spoke on the different medications and how they have better results with the new regimens. Its hopeful that he is so passionate about his work and eye opening at the state our province is in dealing with such a rise in cases. 

The final day of the conference started with a Presentation on Resilience and Change by Joe Roberts. He was very inspiring to hear speak and had the audience engaged in his life story. The biggest take away I received from this presentation was how the smallest act of kindness can impact people's lives. He acknowledged that it was not just one but many people taking a chance on him that helped him succeed. 

The session I attended next was another panel discussion on pharmacy professionals filling gaps in health care. The panel consisted of:

  • Pharmacy Technician working in community who provides care to Northern communities- She would call and touch base with patients and pack their medications for the month.
  • Pharmacist working in an inner-city community pharmacy- He adjusted his practice from focusing on cardiovascular to providing his patients to what they really need and now works closely with a prescriber to help his community.
  • Pharmacist working in community who ended up petitioning for funding to provide injections so patients could go to the pharmacy instead of emergency rooms.
  • Pharmacist working in emergency medicine- She completed a trial Emergency position where she would be there to help nurses and physicians.

The panel showcased how Pharmacy can help service patients in a greater capacity helping physicians during the physician shortage.

The final session I attended at the conference was on Pharmacy Professionals Supporting Indigenous Health. This session spoke on how Pharmacy staff can be conscious of the Indigenous beliefs, how to support staff while navigating NIHB and how to advocate for Indigenous patients. 

The conference did seem a bit more geared to Community Pharmacy Staff, but I am grateful I was able to attend. The sessions were very informative. It was also nice to have the opportunity to connect with colleagues who no longer work at my practice site. 

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