Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Who and Why of CE

As you can imagine, the last thing a student wants to consider is more education, when all they really want is to be done the loads and loads of homework, studying and on-rotation learning.  

However, as I approach the end of my second week at rxBriefCase, I have found myself reconsidering the value of Continuing Education.

As pharmacists, we are some of the most trusted and accessible healthcare professionals. Many patients approach us when they have questions about their medications (both prescription and OTC!) or simply need guidance. It is therefore very important to be competent and up-to-date if we are to properly address patients’ concerns.

Why Do Continuing Education?

Stay current
Clinical trials are conducted regularly to identify new findings and information about medical conditions. Unless you are an avid fan of, it is challenging and time consuming to read all the primary literature required to keep current. CE courses are the easier way to stay informed about new changes and respond to patients appropriately.

Guidelines made easy
As you know, clinical practice guidelines are lengthy documents that provide extensive information on the management of medical conditions. Let’s just take an example of Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Guidelines which is 227 pages long and contains some information that may not be relevant to pharmacy practice.  CE courses are designed to summarize relevant information from the guidelines in a concise and practical manner, which will then help you apply the information in real-world scenarios.

New developments in the pharma world
Pharmaceutical companies are constantly working to develop newer and more advanced medications for several disease states. For example, a recent advancement in the world of onychomycosis was made with the launch of  a new therapy. These advancements are often discussed by experts in the field, using a wide array of journal articles and supporting clinical trials to provide updates to their peers via CE courses. See the Onychomycosis program for an example of how new developments are addressed in CE.        

Memory refresher
Many of you may have graduated years ago and have forgotten key information on certain topics or are fresh grads and just don’t have enough knowledge about particular topics. Don’t worry, CE courses are here to your rescue! Based on self-assessment, you can determine what therapeutic topics are in need of a refresher and participate in a related CE to obtain key information on pathophysiology, treatment strategies, and dosing recommendations.  

Are you scrambling through therapeutic choices, lecture notes, patient self-care, and totally confused about specific topics? CE courses can be your go-to resource to help you prepare for your PEBC and OSCE exam. CE courses provide practical and concise information that can help you connect the dots.

Who Among Us Would Benefit from Continuing Education? 

  • Pharmacists: Both new pharmacists and pharmacists practising for a while can benefit from CE programs.

  • Pharmacy students: Students can strengthen their in-class learning with the help of CE programs as well as prepare for their licensing exams.

  • Pharmacy technicians: Can benefit from the CE programs for professional development.

Nationwide CE requirements for pharmacists  



Participation in CE is mandatory and pharmacists are required to report a minimum of 15 CE units annually.
No mandatory requirement but pharmacists are encouraged to identify their learning needs and participate in CE courses accordingly.
Pharmacists are required to complete a minimum of 15 hours of accredited learning activities annually.
Information not available
Pharmacists are required to document a minimum of 15 hours of learning annually.
Nova Scotia
Pharmacists are required to complete a minimum of 15 units of continued education each year.
Pharmacists are required to complete 15 CEUs between April 1 of the previous membership year and June 1 of the following year.
New Brunswick
Pharmacists are required to complete a minimum of 15 units annually to be qualified for licensing the following year.
Prince Edward Island
No mandatory requirements. Pharmacists should participate in continued education based on personal needs for professional development.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Pharmacists are required to complete a minimum of 15 CEUs with at least 7.5 CEUs must be accredited.  The CEUs should be complete between December 1st of the previous membership year and Nov 30th of the following year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A new student, a new perspective!

Hello everyone,

My name is Nihal Abbas and I am a fourth-year PharmD student at University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan faculty of Pharmacy. I recently started my APPE rotation here at rxBriefCase and will be here for the next 5 weeks.  Prior to this I was doing my rotation at a Shoppers Drug Mart in downtown Toronto. In my spare time, I work part-time at a hospital as a pharmacy student technician.

Since I already have extensive community experience through my placements and employment, I am most looking forward to experiencing a pharmacist’s role in a hospital setting.  These rotations will hopefully provide insight and guide me in my decision between community and hospital practice. My therapeutic areas of interest are Diabetes Care, Mental Health, and Oncology. 

While at rxBriefCase, I will be working on different components of continued medical education such as developing an e-newsletter and a patient-focused learning module. I will also be critically appraising an existing eCE program on rxBriefCase and reviewing a draft of eCME that is in the works.  

I have to say this is going to be the most different experience I have had so far. I am looking forward to accomplishing my tasks successfully and learning the essential skills of medical writing.

Throughout my 5 weeks here I will be sharing all things that interest/intrigue me. So stay tuned and enjoy my posts!!  I promise to make it more colorful and less wordy! 

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to share them with me. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Final Look at Delivering Effective Continuing Education

This will be my last post as I finish up my time at rxBriefCase and transition to my first direct patient-care rotation next week.  Last week my preceptors brought me to the eLearning Alliance of Canadian Hospitals (eACH) conference. It was interesting because the content was quite different from the conferences I normally attend. Instead of being clinically-based, the sessions explored ways they have found to effectively teach clinical practitioners.

Three Things I Learned at the Conference:

  1. Healthcare providers may find themselves conforming to availability bias (or heuristic bias). This occurs when we have a tendency to rely on things that frequently occur and readily come to mind to make judgments. This may put patients at risk if thorough attention is not given to each individual case.

    • ISMP Canada regularly posts safety bulletins that contain key learning points that can give insight on common errors that compromise patient safety and how to prevent them from occurring.  

  1. Flat design is now trending. The world of internet was unveiled decades ago with a flashy design, but web design is going back to the basics, featuring bold, basic, and simple design with simple fonts and animations.

    • Flashy fonts and animations may take away attention from the content, which ultimately is the most important piece of a CE program.

  1. Innovation always remains a key component to keep users/participants interested and engaged to learn.

    • Finding innovative ways, such as the use of games to deliver the information can turn a dull process into more engaging learning experience.

Lessons learned

Overall, I have enjoyed and appreciated my rotation at rxBriefCase which challenged me to develop my practitioner and patient-focused writing skills. The experience has helped solidify existing therapeutic knowledge and taught me to convey thoughts succinctly - which is, by the way, much more difficult than speech. 

Throughout the process, I realized that regurgitating guidelines and recommendations is easy; the tough part is how to translate the text into clinically relevant information for your audience. And, that is the art of developing Continuing Education.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Placebo vs. sugar pills. Catering your language to the right audience

It’s been a busy three weeks at rxBriefCase, but I was able to carve out some time to provide an update on my experiences so far.
For a large part, I’ve been focusing on the eNewsletter (arrived in your inboxes on July 11!) and a patient-focused program for While both involve education, developing content for the two tools is vastly different. The newsletter is distributed to pharmacists and healthcare professionals who possess the training to understand the scientific terminology. medSchoolForYou, on the other hand, is designed to empower patients by providing them with knowledge to make informed decisions; the language must therefore be patient-centered.


Thankfully, I have a wide range of audiences to gauge understanding. In particular, pharmacist and CME writer, Mike Boivin, has years of experience writing for healthcare professionals, while a few colleagues at mdBriefCase (who don’t have a science or healthcare background) provide me with suggestions for more patient-oriented language.
The development stages for both educational pieces are quite similar, but appear to require a different area of my brain and thought process to ensure audience-appropriate language.
Step 1: Topic selection
Finding a topic that will both interest me and engage the desired audience.

Step 2: Research, research, research
This step involves gathering the most up-to-date Canadian guidelines and recommendations to provide the required supporting evidence.

Step 3: Write the first draft
Completing the first draft can be a long process as you try to concisely convey your thoughts into text.

Step 4: Review & edit, repeat
As a newby, drafts are subject to multiple rounds of review and edits. Medical terminology often become common language for healthcare practitioners. To illustrate, the medSchoolForYou program I developed revolves around frequently asked questions on contraception, but would the average female know what contraception means? In this case, using “birth control” may be more appropriate. Or would patients understand “dyslipidemia” and “hypertension”? Most often we use patient-centered terms like “high blood pressure” or “high cholesterol” to help patients understand.

Step 5: Programming and development
Once the content is finalized, the responsibility is passed onto the rxBriefCase team to ensure the text you see online and in your email is appealing.

Step 6: Go live
Making the content available to the public for viewing and hoping it makes a difference.

As you can imagine, my last few weeks have been encompassed with writing for these two tools. Stay tuned for the release of the medSchoolForYou program in the next week or two! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!