Name: Eileen Barkhouse
Born: Truro, Nova Scotia
Whether you need to pick up a prescription after your doctors appointment or just need some advice on your medications, a pharmacist is someone you are bound to turn to. Eileen Barkhouse talks about the ins and the outs of being a pharmacist and gives you a prescription on how to pursue a career in this field.
What is a Pharmacist?
A pharmacist is a health care professional who deals mostly with the business of medications. We fill prescriptions for patients written by doctors and assess them for their appropriateness, allergies and drug interactions. We prepare the drugs as written to be dispensed to the patient. We also counsel them on how to correctly take the medications and let them know of any side effects or precautions to watch out for. As a retail pharmacist, we also answer questions about over-the-counter medication needs, including training patients on how to properly use blood glucose and blood pressure monitors.
What is a typical day like for you?
My typical day would mostly involve checking prescriptions and counseling patients about their medications. There are however a lot of other things that come up in a typical day, including answering over-the-counter questions, calling doctors and insurance plans as problems with prescriptions arise, answering questions on the phone, and doing prescription follow-up callbacks… just to name a few.
Did you always want to be a Pharmacist?
For some reason in junior high, I decided that pharmacy was the career I wanted to pursue. I have no idea where it came from, but I'm glad I did!
Do all pharmacists work behind counters at drug stores? What other roles do pharmacists have?
A large percentage of graduates do aspire to a career in retail pharmacy, but there are a lot of other routes you could follow with our degree. The next biggest group would be the hospital pharmacists. You can also become a drug representative for a pharmaceutical company. There are positions within the third party payers, who are the insurance companies who pay for people's medications. Some pharmacists work privately as consultants. So there are definitely a lot of options!!
What is the coolest part of your job?
The best part of my job can also be the most challenging...dealing with the public. I have had so many rewarding interactions with patients about their medications and health; that's what makes it all worth it when you get the difficult customers, which is a given when working with the public in any job.
What attracted you to study science?
I think I was always more interested in sciences than the arts from an early age and excelled in those subjects. So, it was a natural progression to pursue a career with a science background.
Where did you go to high school?
I am from Nova Scotia so I went to a large high school in my home town of Truro called Cobequid Educational Centre.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Probably math or chemistry.
What courses in high school prepared you for this field?
It is important to take the right courses in high school in order to be able to apply to pharmacy, although a prerequisite first year of sciences is required at university. The majority of my courses were science math, chemistry, physics, and biology.
How did you choose your university?
There is only one university in the Maritimes that has a college of pharmacy - Dalhousie University in Halifax, so it was an easy choice for me!
Did you have to do extra training after university to become a pharmacist?
Yes, you have to enter a pharmacy college (which are a part of universities all over Canada) after graduating with an undergraduate degree. After that there is a required period of internship where you are a practicing pharmacist, but still under the supervision of another licensed pharmacist. My placement was 8 weeks in Nova Scotia; in Ontario it is 12 weeks.
What do you do in your spare time?
I exercise regularly and love going out to eat and socialize with friends.
What is one thing nobody knows about you?
I'm a big hockey fan!
What was the smartest/dumbest thing you ever did?
I think my move to Ontario around 2&1/2 years ago was a smart decision for me. It not only has helped me financially in terms of paying off student loans sooner, but has allowed me a greater opportunity to travel.
What is the last book you read?
Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts
What music do you have in your CD player right now?
James Blunt, Daniel Powter
Any advice that you would give others seeking a similar career?
I think pharmacy is definitely a good career choice. There are plenty of jobs and it is financially rewarding. It's nice too because you can graduate into a definite job without trying to figure out what to do once you have your university degree. My one piece of advice would be to look into taking the right courses in high school and in first year university so that you can apply early. If you know that pharmacy is what you want to do, you can get your degree in 5 years if you plan properly.
Can you suggest some good links for more information on a career in pharmacy?
The Ontario College of Pharmacists
Canadian Pharmacy Colleges Listings