Summer Experiential Learning: Six Weeks at the BC Cancer Agency

For the past six weeks, I have had the pleasure of interning in the BC Cancer Provincial Pharmacy department where I have gained valuable insight into the field of oncology pharmacy practice and have had many learning opportunities during my short internship. There are the three key lessons that I have learned: 

  1.    The importance of interprofessional collaboration As a student you often hear about the importance of interprofessional collaboration. I truly was able to appreciate it when I had the opportunity to collaborate with a nurse practitioner and a pediatric oncologist to try and piece together a patient’s medical history. Together we were able to collect and summarize treatment outcomes for a drug used off-label. I was also given the opportunity to shadow a clinical pharmacist in the Pain and Symptom Management Clinic and a pharmacy resident on her ambulatory rotation. Both routinely collaborate with oncologists, nurses, physiotherapists, dieticians, and social workers in a very professional manner. Through these experiences I learned that each health care professional brings a unique set of skills and ways of thinking. When used in conjunction, it leads to a more holistic approach to identify ways to improve care and ultimately lead to optimal management of the patient’s health
  2. The utility of using evidence-based medicine A multitude of projects I participated in required me to conduct a literature search on a variety of topics. A thorough review of the literature allowed me to better understand background information and later formulate the most accurate research question. Oncology has a wide variety of data available depending on the topic, from patient case reports to randomized-controlled trials and meta-analyses. The application of evidence-based medicine into oncology practice is imperative to give patients the best care.
  3. Oncology is a very unique field of practice which must be individualized to patients In the field of oncology, a patient must undergo therapy that is very individualized to their cancer diagnosis. Even if the cancer tumour site is the same between two patients, the goals of therapy can differ greatly depending on the intent of therapy: whether the patient is palliative or not. This is a unique aspect to oncology. Oncology patients face a variety of challenges that are unlike any other, such as managing complicated regimens with significant adverse effects. Their care and management needs to be individualized to maximize efficacy of treatment while mitigating toxicity.  During my internship at the BC Cancer Provincial Pharmacy I had the opportunity to observe how pharmacists conduct medication reviews, involving therapy selection and symptom management. I was able to hear the thoughts of a medication safety coordinator and listen to the different challenges encountered by pharmacists. BC Cancer Provincial Pharmacy allows the utilization of the pharmacist’s knowledge to the full capacity, leading to better patient care. 

Although my internship only lasted six weeks, I was able to work with a multitude of professionals from BC Cancer Provincial Pharmacy. They all demonstrate passion and determination to further research and knowledge within oncology. I was able to partake in a variety of projects and meetings that helped facilitate my learning. I will never forget all the valuable lessons I learned and conversations I had. Interning at BC Cancer Provincial Pharmacy has solidified my resolve to be involved in the oncology sector as a pharmacist. I hope I too one day as a health care professional can further the knowledge in this sector. 

Manrose Mann has just completed her 3rd year of Pharmacy at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She completed her BSc in Biology (Genetics) at UBC and recently won the PharmaChoice West Award in Pharmaceutical Sciences for a student who demonstrates exemplary leadership skills in the area of pharmacy practice. Manrose has experience working as a pharmacy assistant at Shoppers Drug Mart, as well as working as a research assistant at the VGH Prostate Cancer Research Centre.