Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

On advocacy and leadership
September 2022

I’ve been reflecting a great deal on the word “advocacy.” What does it mean? What does it look like for each of us personally? For our profession?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually quite simple when you think about it: We all have the opportunity to help redefine the face of pharmacy practice in Canada by being an advocate. We do it by showing up and representing the profession to the best of our ability, by fulfilling our duties as licensed pharmacists. You never know who is going to walk through the pharmacy doors each day, and what tables they may bring their experiences to after they leave.

To me, advocacy is:

  • building healthy relationships with your patients and colleagues
  • ensuring you have all the required training/knowledge to carry out the duties of your role well
  • working to define your place in health care with passion and commitment

While there are formal opportunities to meet with your federal, provincial/territorial and local government officials, the reality is that you are an ambassador for our profession from the moment your day starts. Every interaction is an opportunity to demonstrate your value as a health-care provider. As part of a multidisciplinary team in an institutional setting, you are representing the profession while rounding, consulting, managing complex drug interactions and supporting patients’ continuity of care. In the community, when you answer an OTC question, recommend the best product, or guide your patient through their complicated health journey, you leave an indelible an impression. The way you show up each day is, in my opinion, the most important form of advocacy.

Truth be told, my work in advocacy started the day I received my white coat—long before it became my actual job. I believe so much in our profession and I know there are thousands of you out there that feel the same way. In my position at CPhA, I’ve spoken to many pharmacists who are carving their own paths. They are proving that there is no longer a singular mold for pharmacists to fit into, but a world of possibility. These trailblazers and entrepreneurs are practicing the way they want to practice and marching to their own beat. They are unphased by barriers and they use courage, determination and creativity to find a way to achieve their goals.

Sharing our experiences

So my question to you is… Are you living the career you imagined? Are you practising the way you want to practise? If the answer is yes, that’s awesome – nice work! We need you to tell us your story. Tell us what’s working and what’s enabling you to thrive. Tell us how you got there.  

If the answer is no, then my question is: What are you doing about it?

It’s so easy to sit on the sidelines and to watch. We can share opinions about what others are doing or not doing, but at what point do we stop and own our individual autonomy to create and lead the change we wish to see. We are ALL agents of change. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Young, old, PharmD, BSc, community, hospital—we are all pharmacists and together we have the power to stand up for what we believe in: our desired future. A future that allows each one of us to thrive both at work and at home. There are people for whom being a pharmacist is a job and others who see it as a profession. Which one are you?

I recently had the absolute privilege to hear from two inspiring pharmacists. One opened her own pharmacy and is redefining what community practice looks like. The other teamed up with engineers and entered the tech space with a mission to solve some of pharmacy’s biggest pain points. In hearing about what pharmacists across Canada are doing with their degrees, I am constantly reminded why I took on the role that I’m in. I am reminded of the power that each one of us holds within us to apply our education in a meaningful way and ultimately make a difference.
We are all learning and growing. It’s never too late to take action, and it’s never to early to take the lead. Being with my colleagues who are doing such incredible things has been motivating and inspiring.

Finding balance

All that said, many (most? all?) of us struggle to find balance. For myself, I continually wrestle with how to balance my responsibility to elevate and showcase the best that pharmacists and pharmacy teams have to offer, with drawing attention to the reality that many pharmacy teams face on a daily basis. I am advocating for changes that will lead to a stronger profession not just in theory, but in reality. Staffing challenges, inadequate or lack of reimbursement, countless administrative tasks that prevent “the most accessible health-care provider” from delivering quality care to Canadians—these are some of the things I think about lying awake at night. They are also the challenges that motivate me to get up in the morning and continue to push for change. From empowering collaborative care, enabling technology and demanding equitable access to health care for Canadians—we’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go.

Stronger together

When asked what I’m advocating for, the honest truth is that both personally and professionally I’m advocating for you. I’m representing you at every table, in every meeting and with every stakeholder. I’m proud to say that I belong to this profession and to brag about you. Our unique and valuable knowledge, our compassion, our ability to communicate and to build strong, meaningful relationships with our patients… those are our superpowers! We have an expertise unlike any other, and I’m here to remind you that how you use this power is up to you!

If you are not a member of a pharmacy association, I’m challenging you to reconsider. We are stronger together. If you can’t support an organization that’s actively fighting for your place in health care, well-being and success, then who are you supporting? Find the organization that speaks your language, the one that makes you say “me too!” and add your voice to theirs.

Here at CPhA, each and every day presents an opportunity to ensure that the pharmacist voice is heard—in stakeholder meetings, at roundtables and with the media. We work with stakeholders to understand drug shortages and supply issues and to develop mitigation strategies to help you and your patients. We conduct public opinion polling to find out what Canadians need and want from their pharmacy teams, and we use that information to encourage governments to enable and fund clinical services in pharmacies. We meet with government officials to tell your stories and advocate for changes that will help shape the profession for the future. Every one of those opportunities matters, and every one is stronger when we can add your voice. You can learn more about our efforts in our latest advocacy update.

As we continue to work hard to advocate on your behalf, I encourage you to do the same. If you want to get involved, reach out to us. There are many ways for you to help with our national advocacy efforts. Through social media, in articles and blogs, we’d love to share your story and your ideas for pharmacy’s future.

Hearing the remarkable stories of my peers reminds me that advocacy doesn’t just happen at the association. Each of us has a choice. You need to CHOOSE advocacy. And you should. Choose to be an advocate for yourself, for your patients and for our profession.

This is an open invitation to you, my fellow pharmacists, to join me in my mission and to be an advocate for pharmacy.

Be well,

Daniel Paes Signature

Daniel Paes

Dr. Danielle Paes
Chief Pharmacist Officer at the Canadian Pharmacists Association

Follow Danielle on Twitter and Instagram (@CdnPharmChief)