Full Time | Part Time | Officer

Pharmacy Officer

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Overview

Pharmacy Officers provide pharmaceutical care to Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members. They offer expert advice on drug therapy for emergency medicine, intensive care therapy, pain management, infectious diseases, and medical countermeasures for nuclear, biological and chemical warfare. Pharmacy Officers also identify and resolve complex drug-related problems.

The role of a Pharmacy Officer is constantly changing and is no longer confined to the distribution of medications. As integral members of the Canadian Forces Health Services team, Pharmacy Officers consult with patients, physicians, and other health care professionals. They teach and guide pharmacy students and interns, serve on advisory and professional committees, and maintain clinical competence through structured and self-directed learning initiatives.

Pharmacy Officers also manage and control medical supplies and equipment. Within the CAF, Pharmacy Officers are the experts in medical materiel procurement and medical supply chain management. They leverage their training and experience to ensure entitled personnel have access to medical supplies wherever they are stationed – be it a base in Canada, or on operations overseas. Pharmacy Officers perform contracting functions for the procurement of medical supplies and work collaboratively with non-medical CAF members to transport cold chain medications around the world. 

Work environment

Pharmacy Officers typically provide pharmacy services at health clinics in Canada, although they also work in a medical depot or in support of military missions in a field medical unit. Pharmacy officers face challenging clinical situations and will also serve as leaders, administrators, and material managers.

Transcript

TITLE:

PHARMACY OFFICER

I’m Captain Andrew Armstrong from Listowel, Ontario. I’m a Pharmacy Officer serving at the Central Medical Equipment Depot at CFB Petawawa.

And I’m Lieutenant Navy Warren Prokopiw from Edmonton, Alberta, a Pharmacy Officer currently working at CFB Comox.

PROKOPIW: Pharmacy Officers in the Canadian Forces are leading members of the military healthcare team with responsibilities that are far more varied and challenging than simply dispensing prescriptions at a community drug store.

ARMSTRONG: We serve as dispensing pharmacists on bases in Canada, manage the distribution of medicines and clinical equipment from our storage depots and deploy with our troops overseas, making sure that the doctors, nurses and technicians who care for them have everything that they need.

PROKOPIW: I just got back from Afghanistan. There are people over there who are putting their lives on the line.

The position that I had overseas was actually a Section Head with the multi-national medical unit at the Kandahar Airfield. While I was there, I was making sure that the lab, the x-ray, the pharmacy, as well as all the medical logistic requirements were being met, so that facility really had everything it needed to operate properly.

PROKOPIW: Going on deployment requires intensive training in emergency and trauma medicine, pain management and the infectious diseases that are unique to each deployment.

ARMSTRONG: Pharmacy Officers receive clinical training that exceeds what most civilian pharmacists would receive. That means going on rounds with physicians, being in the ICU every morning, making care decisions for inpatients and also being tasked as the officer in charge of the blood bank, the radiology unit and the pharmacy.

We also have other opportunities working with the Disaster Assistance Response Team or the DART. We also have pharmacists working in Ottawa in medical policy and plans, coming up with medical plans for support to deployed operations. There’s a lot of different roles beyond just the dispensing pharmacy role.

PROKOPIW: What I really enjoy about being a pharmacist in the Canadian Forces is the options of different type of employment that you can have and how quickly you can actually transition from one to the other.

Working in a community pharmacy, you might see the same medications every day. You have the same problems with similar patient. I could see that getting very routine after a while, but in the Forces, you keep moving, keep changing, keep being challenged.

ARMSTRONG: I had the opportunity to travel to Budapest to get my certificate in travel health with the International Society of Tropical Medicine. Things like that, that competitors and maybe retail drug chains – they just can’t match.

There’s other things as well as being part of the military, things like going on adventure training, the whole camaraderie, esprit de corps, having a team that you’re working with all the time. And then really feeling like you’re making a difference when you get to participate in some of these activities like deployments and things like that.

ARMSTRONG: After your basic officer training, you’ll be commissioned as a captain or Navy Lieutenant and begin on-the-job training at specialized courses on military medical practice and doctrine.

The military has a program set up for pharmacists called the Preceptive Pharmacist Program which is a clinical residency for new pharmacists, that when we graduate from school and we’ve completed our licensing requirements to become a pharmacist, we then are placed into a civilian hospital, so we’ll go on for about a 6-or-7 month period and do rotations in things such as infectious disease, general internal medicine, critical care, psychiatry. Other rotations like that, that are particular to the intricacies of health-care delivery in the military.

You will complete the majority of courses in your first few years after enrolment. These courses will be a combination of online learning and in-house training in Borden. You will also have the opportunity to complete more specialized training throughout your career.

PROKOPIW: When a pharmacist first gets their license, they’re normally posted to a medical clinic, that’s normally quite a large one, where they’ll be working with another pharmacist who can serve like a bit of their mentor and kind of bring them along as they start off their initial steps in their military career. They’ll then have the opportunity to be posted to a smaller clinic where they’d be on their own, where they’d have the ability to certainly grow and establish themselves within their own skillset within the Forces.

ARMSTRONG: The unit that I’m working at now is CMED which is the Central Medical Equipment Depot. It’s essentially a depot and a warehouse for medical supplies. Our main priority is providing medical support to deployed operations, both domestic and abroad. Having a background in the medical field is important because we’re dealing with medical supplies – drugs, biologicals, vaccines, that have very unique characteristics.

PROKOPIW: As you’ve had more time in the Canadian Forces, you could find yourself dealing with drug utilization reviews, evaluating the way that medications are actually being employed throughout the entire Canadian Forces.

ARMSTRONG: There really is a lot of opportunities within the military. It opens up so many doors, more than I ever even thought was possible and I’ve done so many very unique things and very cool things with the military that I don’t think I would have done anywhere else. I deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan to the role 3 multi-national medical unit and I worked as the clinical pharmacist there. It was a really rewarding opportunity to be able to go overseas and work in that capacity. It was very challenging clinically, it was very challenging professionally and you really feel like you’re making a difference.

PROKOPIW: When you’re involved with operations, you have the ability to support and effect people who are in life and death situations. Being able to be part of that organization that makes sure that they get the ultimate medical care is very, very satisfying and gratifying.

Basic Military Officer Qualification

After enrolment, Pharmacy Officers attend Basic Military Officer Qualification training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.Pharmacy Officers take the Condensed Health Services Basic Military Officer Qualification Training which consists of two weeks of Distance Learning and four weeks of in-house training in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.  Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Available professional training

Pharmacy Officers must complete the Common Health Services Officer (CHSO) course which is an eight-day e-learning course available on the Defence Learning Network (DLN).  The CHSO course introduces Pharmacy Officers to Canadian Armed Forces policies and procedures as well as HR management of military members and civilian personnel.

Pharmacy Officers attend the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre in Borden, Ontario, for the Basic Pharmacy Officer Course which includes instruction on military medical doctrine in a field environment, general health care administration, military pharmacy practice, and medical supply management. This training provides the background and opportunity to participate in the clinical, technical, logistic, and administrative aspects of pharmacy practice in the CAF.

On-the-job training

Pharmacy Officers may have the opportunity to complete a six month preceptor program at an accredited civilian hospital, similar to the Hospital Residency program.

Available specialty training

Pharmacy Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, such as:

  • Professional Certificate in Pharmacoepidemiology & Pharmacovigilance – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine;
  • Certificate in Travel Health from the International Society of Travel Medicine;
  • Basic Aviation Medicine training;
  • Leadership training;
  • Management training.

Available advanced training

As they progress in their career, Pharmacy Officers who demonstrate the required ability and potential may have the opportunity to pursue post-graduate training at an accredited Canadian university.

Direct entry options

If you already have a Bachelor of Science (Pharmacy) or a Pharm D degree from a recognized Canadian university, have passed the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada’s qualifying exam, hold a current license to practice client-based pharmacy in a Canadian province or territory, and are in the possession of a letter of ‘Good Standing’ from your professional regulatory authority, the CAF may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Because this on-the-job training leads directly to an intensive 6 month clinical residency, it is also necessary that all candidates (except for very recent graduates) possess---or seek out---clinical experience in a tertiary care facility as delineated in the entry standard prior to applying to the CAF. Basic training and military officer qualification training (of which this clinical residency are part) are both required before being assigned.

Serve with the Reserve Force

The role of the Canadian Forces Health Services Reserves is to provide trained personnel to support, augment and sustain Canadian Forces Health Services organizations for CAF operations and training activities, while building and maintaining links between the CAF and the local community.

As a health care professional in the Health Services Reserves, you must have an unrestricted license to practice in your clinical field (including certification in your specific specialty) and have the ability to maintain clinical currency within your civilian workplace.

 

This position is available for part-time employment through the Reserves. Reservists generally work part-time for a Reserve health services unit in their community. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Reserve Force training

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts.  Applicants with an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy or a Pharmacy D (entry-level), who have successfully completed the Pharmaceutical Examination Board of Canada qualifying examination Parts I and II, hold a current unrestricted license to practice as a pharmacist and have a letter of “good standing” from their professional regulatory authority may be placed directly into the required military training program following basic officer training.

Reserve Working Environment

Reserve Pharmacy Officers may serve part-time at a Health Services Clinic and may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms.They are paid 92.8% of Regular Force rates of pay and receive a reasonable benefits package.