Summer Experiential Learning: Top 3 Things I Learned Providing Care to Oncology Patients

The Top 3 Things I Learned Providing Care to Oncology Patients

Guest post by Chantel Martin (edited by Amy Smith)

Each summer the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency pharmacy staff has the pleasure of working alongside aspiring pharmacists, such as Chantel Martin.  In this guest blog post, Chantel shares her top 3 things she learned after a summer working with oncology patients. - Amy Smith

Starting a job at the Cancer Centre was exciting but also terrifying. Although I have completed 3 years of my pharmacy degree, our oncology and pain lectures do not take place until our final year, so I didn’t feel qualified to help cancer patients or even have a discussion about oncology with pharmacists.This is what I learned reflecting on a summer at the Cancer Centre.

1. Jump out of your comfort zone

Just dive in! It is okay to lookup dozens of new terms a day and ask a million questions. It is okay to not know all the answersto patients’ questions right away. This was a unique opportunity to learn with a safety blanket of knowledgeable oncology health care professionals to guide the way.

2. The strength of cancer patients

Patients receiving cancer treatment are incredible. Cancer is such a frightening diagnosis, filled with unknowns. Yet, the overwhelming majority of patients report with a positive attitude and take on another cycle of chemotherapy- no matter how rough the last round. At first, I was really nervous about working at the Cancer Centre, because I thought the idea of cancer is scary and depressing. I could not have been more wrong. Every single staff member commits to “embracing hope” which inspires patients to do the same. 

3. Interacting with our patients

Teaching patients about medications while they are receiving chemotherapy is different than speaking to patients in a community pharmacy.  You actually have time to get to know your patients and provide personalized care.It is more conversational.As a student, it is okay to get caught up chatting with your patients because,at the end of the day,  you hopefully know your patients better and made their appointment go by a little faster.


The top “3 things I learned” does not reflect the hundreds of things I have actually taken away from my summer.  I not only have a different perspective as a health professional but also in my everyday life because of the conversations I had with patients and the pharmacy staff.  I learned how important it is to appreciate and make the most of every minute.  am so fortunate to have had this opportunity.


Chantel Martin is a pharmacy student entering her 4th year in her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree at the University of Saskatchewan. Chantel spent the summer at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency in Saskatoon, working as a Pharmacy Intern. She grew up in Ituna, Sk and enjoys travelling and taking part in competitive curling.

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