Pharmacy Officer

Job description

Pharmacy Officers provide pharmaceutical care to Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members. They offer expert advice on drug therapy for emergency medicine, intensive care therapy, pain management, infectious diseases, and medical countermeasures for nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. Pharmacy Officers also identify and resolve complex drug-related problems.

The role of a Pharmacy Officer is constantly changing and is no longer confined to the distribution of medications. As integral members of the Canadian Forces Health Services team, Pharmacy Officers consult with patients, physicians, and other health care professionals. They teach and guide pharmacy students and interns, serve on advisory and professional committees, and maintain clinical competence through structured and self-directed learning initiatives. Pharmacy Officers also manage and control medical supplies and equipment.

Transcript

Pharmacy Officer

I’m Captain Andrew Armstrong from Listowel, Ontario. I’m a Pharmacy Officer serving at the Central Medical Equipment Depot at CFB Petawawa.

And I’m Lieutenant Navy Warren Prokopiw from Edmonton, Alberta, a Pharmacy Officer currently working at CFB Comox.

PROKOPIW: Pharmacy Officers in the Canadian Forces are leading members of the military healthcare team with responsibilities that are far more varied and challenging than simply dispensing prescriptions at a community drug store.

ARMSTRONG: We serve as dispensing pharmacists on bases in Canada, manage the distribution of medicines and clinical equipment from our storage depots and deploy with our troops overseas, making sure that the doctors, nurses and technicians who care for them have everything that they need.

PROKOPIW: I just got back from Afghanistan. There are people over there who are putting their lives on the line.

The position that I had overseas was actually a Section Head with the multi-national medical unit at the Kandahar Airfield. While I was there, I was making sure that the lab, the x-ray, the pharmacy, as well as all the medical logistic requirements were being met, so that facility really had everything it needed to operate properly.

PROKOPIW: Going on deployment requires intensive training in emergency and trauma medicine, pain management and the infectious diseases that are unique to each deployment.

ARMSTRONG: Pharmacy Officers receive clinical training that exceeds what most civilian pharmacists would receive. That means going on rounds with physicians, being in the ICU every morning, making care decisions for inpatients and also being tasked as the officer in charge of the blood bank, the radiology unit and the pharmacy.

We also have other opportunities working with the Disaster Assistance Response Team or the DART. We also have pharmacists working in Ottawa in medical policy and plans, coming up with medical plans for support to deployed operations. There’s a lot of different roles beyond just the dispensing pharmacy role.

PROKOPIW: What I really enjoy about being a pharmacist in the Canadian Forces is the options of different type of employment that you can have and how quickly you can actually transition from one to the other.

Working in a community pharmacy, you might see the same medications every day. You have the same problems with similar patient. I could see that getting very routine after a while, but in the Forces, you keep moving, keep changing, keep being challenged.

ARMSTRONG: I had the opportunity to travel to Budapest to get my certificate in travel health with the International Society of Tropical Medicine. Things like that, that competitors and maybe retail drug chains – they just can’t match.

There’s other things as well as being part of the military, things like going on adventure training, the whole camaraderie, esprit de corps, having a team that you’re working with all the time. And then really feeling like you’re making a difference when you get to participate in some of these activities like deployments and things like that.

ARMSTRONG: After your basic officer training, you’ll be commissioned as a captain or Navy Lieutenant and begin on-the-job training at specialized courses on military medical practice and doctrine.

The military has a program set up for pharmacists called the Preceptive Pharmacist Program which is a clinical residency for new pharmacists, that when we graduate from school and we’ve completed our licensing requirements to become a pharmacist, we then are placed into a civilian hospital, so we’ll go on for about a 6-or-7 month period and do rotations in things such as infectious disease, general internal medicine, critical care, psychiatry. Other rotations like that, that are particular to the intricacies of health-care delivery in the military.

You will complete the majority of courses in your first few years after enrolment. These courses will be a combination of online learning and in-house training in Borden. You will also have the opportunity to complete more specialized training throughout your career.

PROKOPIW: When a pharmacist first gets their license, they’re normally posted to a medical clinic, that’s normally quite a large one, where they’ll be working with another pharmacist who can serve like a bit of their mentor and kind of bring them along as they start off their initial steps in their military career. They’ll then have the opportunity to be posted to a smaller clinic where they’d be on their own, where they’d have the ability to certainly grow and establish themselves within their own skillset within the Forces.

ARMSTRONG: The unit that I’m working at now is CMED which is the Central Medical Equipment Depot. It’s essentially a depot and a warehouse for medical supplies. Our main priority is providing medical support to deployed operations, both domestic and abroad. Having a background in the medical field is important because we’re dealing with medical supplies – drugs, biologicals, vaccines, that have very unique characteristics.

PROKOPIW: As you’ve had more time in the Canadian Forces, you could find yourself dealing with drug utilization reviews, evaluating the way that medications are actually being employed throughout the entire Canadian Forces.

ARMSTRONG: There really is a lot of opportunities within the military. It opens up so many doors, more than I ever even thought was possible and I’ve done so many very unique things and very cool things with the military that I don’t think I would have done anywhere else. I deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan to the role 3 multi-national medical unit and I worked as the clinical pharmacist there. It was a really rewarding opportunity to be able to go overseas and work in that capacity. It was very challenging clinically, it was very challenging professionally and you really feel like you’re making a difference.

PROKOPIW: When you’re involved with operations, you have the ability to support and effect people who are in life and death situations. Being able to be part of that organization that makes sure that they get the ultimate medical care is very, very satisfying and gratifying.

Overview

Working environment

Pharmacy Officers typically provide pharmacy services at health clinics in Canada, although they may also work in a medical depot or in support of military missions in a field medical unit. Pharmacy officers face challenging clinical situations but will also serve as leaders, administrators, and material managers.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained and licensed Pharmacy Officer is approximately $74,000 per year. Upon receiving their licence, Pharmacy Officers are promoted to the rank of Captain. Officers who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.

Related civilian occupations

  • Pharmacist

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Training

Basic military officer qualification

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Professional training

Pharmacy Officers attend the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre in Borden, Ontario, for instruction on military medical doctrine in a field environment, general health care administration, military pharmacy practice, and medical supply management. This training provides the background and opportunity to participate in the clinical, technical, logistic, and administrative aspects of pharmacy practice in the CAF.

On-the-job training

Pharmacy Officers will have the opportunity to complete a six month preceptor program at an accredited civilian hospital, similar to the Hospital Residency program.

Specialty training

Pharmacy Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, such as:

  • Pharmaco-epidemiology training
  • Travel medicine training
  • Basic Aviation Medicine training
  • Leadership training
  • Management training

Advanced training

As they progress in their career, Pharmacy Officers who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training, including subsidized studies in a Doctor of Pharmacy program at an accredited Canadian university.

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Entry plans

Direct entry

If you already have a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from a recognized Canadian university, have passed the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada’s qualifying exam, and hold a current licence to practise client-based pharmacy in a Canadian province or territory, the CAF may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Paid education

Regular Officer Training Plan

Because this position requires a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree program at a Canadian university. They receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working with the CAF for a period of time. Typically, candidates selected for this program attend university during the regular academic year and participate in additional military training during the summer months.

If you choose to apply to this program, you must apply both to the CAF and the Canadian university of your choice that offers a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree program.

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Part-time option

This occupation is available part-time within the following environments: Navy, Army, Air Force

A career with the Reserve Force

This position is available for part-time employment through the Reserves. Reservists generally work part-time for a Reserve unit in their community. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Reserve training

Reservists train with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required professional standards of the job. If additional training is required in order to specialize their skills, arrangements will be made by the home unit.

It is also possible to set up an “Individual Learning Plan” to take courses leading to a university degree related to this job, and upon successful completion, be reimbursed for up to 50 percent of tuition and other mandatory costs. Education fees for successfully completed courses are reimbursed as long as the student was a Reservist during the entire duration of the course.

Working environment

Typically, Reservists work or train with their home unit for at least four evenings and one weekend per month, from September to May of each year. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay and receive a reasonable benefits package.

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