Lynne Nakashima - CAPhO18 Summary Report

I was delighted to receive funding through the Wild Card Travel Grant to enable me to attend the CAPhO Conference in Ottawa/Gatineau in May 2018! Thank you so much to CAPhO and the Awards Committee for this opportunity!

The CAPhO Conference theme this year was “Better Together”. This theme was woven through the entire program, and even including the evening entertainment! It brought home to me, the very essence of being an Oncology Pharmacist.  When an individual is diagnosed with cancer, it immediately becomes a situation in which everyone must work together to achieve the outcome we desire. Not one of us can do this alone. In working together, we are truly better together. Let me give you some examples from the sessions to illustrate this point.

Health literacy is the ability to access, understand, evaluate and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain and improve health. Up to 60% of patients have low health literacy and this increases up to 88% in older patients. Health literacy impacts the patient experience. Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians can significantly impact on the patient experience by ensuring a patient-friendly environment, slowing down, focusing on the main points and checking understanding. We can assist the patient with understanding what the numbers mean.  We can help with information about alternative or complementary therapies, for which there can be confusing and contradictory information in books and on the internet. We are “better together” - working together with the patient and their family, we can help patients to have a better understanding of their medications and ensure a comfort level with the information they need to ensure the best possible outcome.

Listening to patients is another key way we can ensure that we are “better Together”. The panel on Post-Cancer Treatment – The New Normal gave us this opportunity in an amazing way – colleagues and patients shared their personal experiences of their cancer journey. We can never hear about this too much. A key learning for me was the point that it gets harder for patients when treatment ends because many of the supports also end. Sometimes Pharmacy remains a contact point for patients at this juncture, and we have the opportunity to continue to support patients through their “new normal”.

Managing drug shortages is my final example of how we can be “better Together”. In the Hot Topic Discussion session, pharmacy folks from across the country shared how they manage drug shortages, tips for managing these difficult situations while trying to minimize impacts to patients and suggestions for how we might work together, across the country when serious shortages occur.

Being “better together” means focusing on the patient at the core of our service. They are why we are here. For most of us, we didn’t choose oncology, oncology chose us. It is a special sort of individual who chooses to work with cancer patients. We come together with a desire to help. We want to help make sure that the experience for our patients is the best, the safest, the most compassionate care that we can provide. We can be better when we work with our colleagues across the country, and even around the world, and when we work with our patients, listening to their needs and finding ways to make the journey as smooth as we can.

In attending this conference, I was reminded just how important the partnerships are to the work that we do. I have taken away more thoughtfulness and stronger sense of trying always to aim to be “better together.”

Lynne Nakashima, Provincial Pharmacy Director, BC Cancer