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Substance misuse the topic for first ACP Leadership Symposium

May 5, 2017

ACP’s first Leadership Symposium brought together pharmacy leaders from across the province to talk about substance misuse in our communities. Participants were challenged to develop and present a framework for how pharmacy technicians and pharmacists can help, and develop takeaways to impact their own practices.

It’s something pharmacists and pharmacy technicians see in their practices every day: substance misuse.

Many Albertans struggle with addictions, be it alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescribed medications. In many cases, addiction is associated with mental health and is of growing concern across our communities. That’s why substance misuse was selected as the theme for ACP’s first-ever Leadership Symposium, held April 28-29, 2017, in Calgary. 

Three educational and inspiring presentations

Participants from ACP’s first three Leadership Forums (2014, 2015, 2016) were invited to attend the symposium, which opened with presentations from three speakers of diverse backgrounds.

First, Dr. Nicole Sherren of the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative spoke about the “Brain Story” and how Adverse Child Events (ACES) can lead to substance misuse later in life.

Next, Pamela Spurvey, who has suffered from mental health and addiction issues for many years, talked about her journey, from a childhood of abuse and hardships, to her own struggles with drugs, to 10 years of sobriety. Pamela is now a peer support worker with Alberta Health Services and a mentor for the Edmonton Drug Treatment Team. She shared an emotional, personal story, including her experiences with pharmacists—both positive and negative. She also gave advice about how to better support patients who suffer from addiction. (We’ll have more from Pamela in the May 10, 2017 edition of the Link.)

Finally, the University of Alberta’s Dr. Cam Wild spoke about the state of substance misuse in Alberta and explored the systemic gaps that contribute to substance misuse, intervention, and treatment.

Putting it into practice

“The three topics were so different yet so related,” said Sharon Van Wert, pharmacy technician from Medicine Hat. “All three were amazing and educational and emotional.”

On day two, participants were divided into four groups, challenged to develop and present a framework for how pharmacy technicians and pharmacists can help individuals with substance misuse issues. Facilitator Don Winn guided participants in how to apply what they learned in the presentations to shape their frameworks.

“We cannot fix the problem, but we can offer support,” said Carstairs pharmacist Margie Steingart. “That was huge for me. I need to gather the tools to show them I care, and not tell them I can fix the problem. Let them know they can succeed.”

“We’re front line. We see them and can invest in their lives, not just their medicine.” – Margie Steingart

Finally, participants wrote down what they committed to do about substance misuse, starting now. Manning-based pharmacist Erin Albrecht was tested her first day back at work, when someone with substance misuse issues walked through her door.

“I didn’t expect that situation to happen so quickly, so I didn’t deal with it much differently than I had before,” said Erin. “It was my reflection afterwards. I might even call her today and ask her to come in and talk about some things I’ve learned. Before, I would have thought, ‘Oh, there she is. I hope she never comes in again.’ But she will come in again. I feel now I have some tools to help her. I recognized in that moment that’s what we were talking about. I want to grow from that situation.”

Apply for the 4th annual Leadership Forum

Are you an aspiring pharmacy leader? Apply for a spot at ACP’s 4th annual Leadership Forum, to be held June 21-23 in Edmonton! You will be introduced to thought processes and skills that will help you lead in a world of constant change. During this two-day event, facilitators will guide you through group and individual learning activities designed to build confidence and leadership skills valuable to your practice, your community, and your home.

 Learn more