Sociologist, PhD student, and project coordinator; EPICORE Centre
How does a sociologist end up dedicating her career to promoting pharmacy practice? For Meagen Rosenthal, the answer has to do with research. While working to complete her Master’s degree in sociology, Meagen found an advertisement for a qualitative research position at the University of Alberta’s Epidemiology Coordinating and Research Centre (EPICORE). She applied, got the job, and began working on a project that saw pharmacists accompany teams of other healthcare professionals on rounds in hospitals.
Meagen was surprised to learn of pharmacists’ expanding roles and abilities. Previously, she had no idea that pharmacists could prescribe, administer injections, counsel patients, and much more. When her supervisor asked her if she was interested in another project, Meagen didn’t hesitate to say yes—the work was exciting and different, and Meagen had a lot of unanswered questions about why many pharmacists weren’t practising to their full scope.
Throughout the years and projects that followed, Meagen has been able to start answering some of those questions. The objective of her research with EPICORE is ultimately to understand what the barriers and impediments are to pharmacists embracing their expanded scope of practice—and how to remove some of these barriers.
She has surveyed pharmacists on chronic disease management and remuneration, studied pharmacist confidence and pharmacy practice culture, researched pharmacy students’ motivation for choosing pharmacy, served as a reviewer for the Canadian Pharmacists Journal, presented multiple times at the Canadian Pharmacists Association conferences, and has published works on several topics, including Alberta pharmacists’ experiences with receiving additional prescribing authorization. She also serves as a teaching assistant and facilitator for the Experiential Learning Part 1 – Service Learning (PHARM 300) course at the University of Alberta Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Through her work and through her many conversations with pharmacists, Meagen has made pharmacists think about why they act the way they do, and how they can use this knowledge and awareness to further the pharmacy profession. She has come to understand that the challenges pharmacists face in expanding their practices are often much more complicated than they are given credit for. At the same time, Meagen is a huge believer in pharmacists’ abilities. She has worked with pharmacists to improve their additional prescribing authorization applications, and has been able to offer advice and encouragement from a unique perspective.
“I’ve worked with a significant number of pharmacists,” says Meagen, “and they all care a lot about what they do—they want to do a really good job. To be successful on the additional prescribing authorization application, you have to pitch yourself; you have to adopt a unique kind of writing style that many pharmacists are not familiar with. I help them focus on their writing and how they can sell themselves.”
One of Meagen’s more notable contributions to the conversation surrounding expanded pharmacist practice came in the form of a paper titled Are Pharmacists the Ultimate Barrier to Pharmacy Practice Change? She cites the project as being a very difficult piece to write and to submit, noting that she and the other authors took a couple of years to prepare it before it was ready for publication. After its publication in Canadian Pharmacists Journal, Meagen was shocked at the amount of conversation that the pharmacy community had—and is still having—about the topic. Though initially worried about the effect the paper may have had on her relationships with pharmacists, Meagen was ultimately glad to have contributed something quite meaningful to the conversation.
The biggest thing that Meagen has learned from working daily with pharmacists is that it isn’t easy to be in their position—sometimes researchers or other non-pharmacists forget that. She stresses the importance of being open, having patience, and really listening to others as the key to bridging the gap between what researchers know and what they would like to accomplish with their research.
When asked about the key to her success, Meagen does not hesitate to mention the people and the pharmacists she has worked with. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to surround myself with awesome people who have been willing to let me ask weird, crazy questions, and go off on directions that nobody else has gone yet,” she says. “I’ve been able to work with phenomenal pharmacists who have been so generous, open and willing to let me pick their brains and push them to do things that they weren’t doing before.”