Thursday, June 19, 2014

Life at rxBriefCase Continues

Hello everyone,

My name is Monica Sanh and I am the new 4th year University of Toronto pharmacy student at rxBriefCase. My therapeutic interests include cardiology, general medicine, and infectious diseases. I have experience in both community and hospital settings, but I am particularly interested in a pharmacist’s role in ambulatory clinics and family health teams, as these roles have been increasing in popularity over the last few years.

Similar to my predecessor (coincidentally named Monica), I will be involved with rxBriefCase, rxPassport, and their Continuing Education tools. Over the next few weeks, I hope to develop my professional medical writing skills by contributing to different continuing education formats, such as the pharmacy student eNewsletter series and patient-facing website

Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any insights on the different practice settings!

I will keep this short, but please look out for future posts! As always, feel free to send me a comment on any opinions, suggestions, or thoughts!

Monday, June 16, 2014

So You’ve Graduated. What’s Next? Continuing Education and Recent Graduates

As this is my last blog post before I leave rxBriefCase for my next pharmacy placement, I wanted to speak about something that would benefit my colleagues – new graduates.

You’re a new pharmacy graduate. The first thing that probably pops into your head is, “Yes! I never have to sit through another lecture or exam again!” You’re anxious and excited to enter the real world. But little do you know, something essential is there waiting for you, waiting to help you excel in the grown-up world, or even to stop you from crashing and burning. That ‘something’ is the thing that you thought you had kicked, tossed, buried deep in the soil, and said your peace with – education.

There is a trend towards participation in Continuing Education in new graduates within 2 years post-graduation1. As a pharmacy student working in many different areas of pharmacy practice, I am constantly finding myself looking to sources of education to augment my learning. In practice, my colleagues and I have learned to expect the unexpected. Finding the tools to be prepared for each day becomes vital.

The ‘graduation-induced amnesia’ phenomenon. I’m sure this has happened to you at least once (probably more) before. This phenomenon is a large-scale version of what happens after each exam you write, when all the information you’ve “learned” in the weeks or months before the sitting just magically seeps out of your brain. Well, this is not good for someone who’s about to enter the workforce. This is probably the reason why more and more graduates are participating in CE programs. Depending on the program, it can serve as a quick refresher on topics you haven’t seen in a while, or an in-depth review of a topic you happened to fall asleep in class that day.

Transitioning from theory to practice. As a new graduate, chances are, you simply don’t have as much experience as someone who’s been out in the workforce for a while and it can be quite daunting to channel massive amounts of information into actual patient care. There are various CE courses that can benefit a new graduate from teaching communication skills to effectively counsel patients in difficult situations (such as the Mood Disorders: Counselling Patients Suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder program) to pharmacy management skills, building confidence as a new pharmacist.

Keeping updated in the pharmacy world. The medical world is constantly changing and we all need a way to adapt to it. With new medications on the market, we need to be kept in the loop. An example is knowing what the difference between the new oral anticoagulants and warfarin means to your patient (see New Oral Anticoagulants: Addressing Pharmacist Challenges).

Opening new doors. Increasing your knowledge and skill set can put you ahead of the game to secure work, especially in saturated job markets. Even if you’re confident, think you know your stuff, and even have good work experience, it never hurts to learn something new. It may spark an interest that you never knew you had or you may learn a new skill that can further your career, like managing your own pharmacy.

It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. It seems that the older you get, the less likely you are to go back to school. However, data shows that the time spent on informal learning (can be done anywhere at any time) by older adults is not all that different from middle-aged adults2.  So, start when you’re a new grad and continue until you’re an old grad! Learning is a life-long journey.

Use this form to contact Monica.


  1. Adamuti-Trache, M. (2009, March). Further education pathways and employment patterns of Canadian university graduates. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from Canadian Council on Learning:
  2. D.W. Livingstone, M. R. (2013). Adult Learning Trends in Canada: Basic Findings of the WALL 1998, 2004 and 2010 Surveys. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from Wall Network:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

HPV Vaccination: What Pharmacists Need to Know

Lately, I’ve been browsing through some of rxBriefCase’s CE programs and wondering which one would be of particular value to pharmacists. I thought I’d share one with you all – Counselling your Patients on HPV Vaccines.

Why is it important to be aware of this topic? A while back, I was asked by a male friend (mid 20s) what my professional opinion was on HPV vaccinations for males. His physician had recently recommended that he consider having the vaccination and that he should do some research on it. Lost and anxious, he naturally turned to a pharmacist (or pharmacy student – me). At that moment, I realized I knew very little about this topic, except from what was conveyed on those HPV campaigns on television, since it wasn’t covered in Pharmacy School. This is probably the case for many practicing pharmacists. For those who are more aware of the issue, the reality is that it’s hard to have that initial conversation with a patient as it is a touchy subject.

HPV ranks as one of the top most common sexually transmitted diseases in Canada, and 3 out of 4 Canadians will have an HPV infection some time in their life1. It affects both women and men. Almost all incidence of cervical cancer are caused by the virus. It can also lead to genital warts, and cancer of the throat, penis, vulva, vagina, and anus1. Early vaccination has the potential to prevent infection with the viruses that most commonly cause some of these cancers.

Top Five Highlights of the CE Program

  1. Videos tackling communication issues. The module contains practical videos of clinicians speaking to patients about the issue. For many pharmacists, the toughest part is initiating the conversation.
A screenshot from the section: Discussing HPV Protection in your Practice. Watch the video here

  1. Strategies to tackle myths. The video shows a clinician having an open discussion with a patient about common myths surrounding HPV and vaccination to alleviate any fears and to empower the patient to manage their health. Many patients in practice will have these questions as they will have heard of this topic from television ads, subway ads, friends, and family. It is useful to see how to approach this with effective communication.

  1. Clinician FAQs and answers in a reader-friendly format.  The charts provided in the CE address common clinician concerns for their patients, and serves as a great reference in practice. In the anecdote about my friend, physicians may not have as much time to address all of the patient’s concerns. Pharmacists must step in to help patients.  As pharmacists’ role in vaccination is rapidly increasing across Canada, we must be prepared to address our patients’ concerns.
Table: Immunization Issues that Commonly Occur in Primary Care - view the full table here
  1. To recommend or not to recommend… Tools to guide clinicians. The module contains a couple charts that help clinicians identify which of their patients are at a higher risk of HPV infection. Pharmacists usually know their patients well and knowing the risk factors can help them pick out which patients to talk to. The module also gives a succinct summary of efficacy and safety evidence for the vaccine. This is especially important since some provinces do not cover the cost of HPV vaccination outside of the predefined patient group, so weighing and discussing the risks and benefits of vaccination with your patient becomes particularly important.

  1. Insightful discussions from around the nation. The Discussion Forum features hot issues about the topic with the insightful thoughts of healthcare practitioners across Canada.

Pharmacists are often a patient’s first point of contact with the healthcare system and the vaccine is now available for girls in every public school in Canada2. So chances are, whether you’re comfortable or not, people are going to ask you about this. It’s important to be equipped with the proper tools to help our patients.

Take the CE here: Counselling your Patients on HPV Vaccines


  1. Cotter, J. (2014, May 27). Last publicly-funded school board to allow HPV vaccine: advocacy group. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from CTV News:
  2. Government of Canada. (2013, April 2). Sexual health: Human papillomavirus (HPV). Retrieved May 30, 2014, from Healthy Canadians:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How are online Continuing Education programs made?

It is the beginning of Week 3 of my time here at rxBriefCase. I want to share with you a bit of what I’ve learned so far. If you’re curious of how the process of a CE program / module development works, let me tell you a bit about it.


1. Come up with an idea!
Whether it be from member surveys or trends, someone must think of a brilliant topic for a CE program, something that is relevant to the community and would benefit healthcare professionals by offering it in a CE program, like the recent “Medication Reconciliation: Doing It Because It Is The Right Thing To Do”.

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2. A “needs assessment” is sometimes conducted to determine what healthcare professionals would need (or want) to know about that topic, identify learning gaps, and so on.

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3. Recruit faculty to develop the program content. If a medical writer is assisting, they convene with the faculty to determine the objectives, clinicals and any case examples to be included. The faculty, which can include pharmacists, nurses and/or physicians, are selected based on experience and clinical expertise.

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4. Project Managers work in conjunction with the faculty to ensure that the program meets its original timelines.

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5. Review, edit, review… and more editing and reviewing by the faculty and medical writer.

6. Accreditation Review: Once faculty have reviewed the program, the program is then submitted to CCCEP, who in turn review the program to determine if it meets their standards for accreditation.

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7. Programming Begins: Once conditionally approved, the Content Team converts the standard word-processing document into the feature-rich electronic course you see online.

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8. The Development Team provide support on any new features that launch with the new program, or tweaks to existing systems to ensure optimal user experience.

9. Waiting… It takes between 4 to 6 weeks to receive final program accreditation.

10. The program goes live! The Marketing Team spreads the word to members so that they are aware of the awesome new program.

So there you have it, program development in 10 easy(ish) steps! If you have any burning questions, feel free to send me a comment using the form to the right.

A Word About Sponsorship

Funding for our programs come in the form of unrestricted educational grants from sponsors, such as universities, medical societies, pharmaceutical companies or government bodies.