Healthy Living in the North

Recruitment on the road: Pharmacy Technician Society of BC event

On October 18, Northern Health Recruiter Steve Prins was in Richmond for a Pharmacy Technician Society of BC event. Thanks to all of the Pharmacy Technicians who stopped by our booth to chat about working at Northern Health! We’re looking forward to keeping in touch!

Want to get a hold of Steve or one of our other Recruiters? Check out

A middle-aged man stands, Steve Prins, stand and smiles in the Northern Health booth. The booth consists of a Northern Health pull-up banner and a table with swag and information materials.

Northern Health Recruiter Steve Prins, on the road in Richmond, BC.


Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.


It’s Pharmacy Awareness Month: Learn more about clinical pharmacists in the hospital

Jessie McIntosh working at a desk.

Jessie McIntosh in action.

March is Pharmacy Awareness Month, and as pharmacy residents at Northern Health, I and my colleague Jessica Manning wanted to let you know a little about the job that makes us excited to come to work each day.

What do we do?

Clinical pharmacists are drug experts involved in various areas of medication management, such as:

  1. Checking to make sure each drug is necessary, effective, and safe for each patient.
  • We check to make sure patients are getting the right drug at the right dose at the right time.
  • Patient age, weight, kidney and liver function, lab tests, drug interactions, allergies, and cost are just some of the things we look at to make sure a drug is right for a patient.
  1. Working with the healthcare team to make each patient’s drug regimen the best it can be:
  • Recommending medication changes to the prescriber.
  • Monitoring various medications and following up with medication changes.
  • Making sure patients are getting all the medications they usually take at home and need in the hospital.
  • Providing the team with detailed up-to-date drug information.
  1. Working with patients to make sure patients are engaged in managing their health by:
  • Discussing their preferences to make sure each patient’s health goals are being met.
  • Counselling patients on how to take their medications, how to know if medications are working for them, and how to manage side effects.
  • Sometimes following up with patients who’ve been discharged from hospital, especially if there’s a complex medication plan (for example, for blood thinners or antibiotics, to name a few).

A pin that says I heart pharmacy.What does that mean for our patients?

Studies show that clinical pharmacists help:

  1. Reduce the time patients spend in hospital
  2. Improve patient health and chronic disease management
  3. Improve patient safety
  4. Reduce healthcare costs

My hospital pharmacist told me they’re a resident – what does that mean?

  • A hospital pharmacy residency is a year-long program that some pharmacists choose to do after they’ve graduated from university.
  • A resident is not required to be a hospital pharmacist, but it helps to build on clinical skills in a practical learning environment.
  • Residents have many rotations on different wards and in different areas of practice throughout the year (e.g., surgery, emergency, pediatrics, intensive care, research).
  • The program focuses on direct patient care, pharmacy operations, project management and personal aspects of pharmacy.
  • The goal of the residency program is to better prepare pharmacists for challenging and innovative pharmacy practice in the hospital setting. After finishing the program, pharmacists become competent and independent clinical practitioners of pharmaceutical care in diverse patient populations.
  • Pharmacy residents develop clinical, interprofessional, and leadership skills under the guidance of experienced preceptors.
  • Northern Health’s pharmacy residency program is fully accredited, and graduates of the program receive their ACPR designation (Accredited Canadian Pharmacy Residency).

Happy Pharmacy Awareness Month!

Jessie McIntosh

About Jessie McIntosh

Jessie is a registered pharmacist, currently three quarters of the way through a pharmacy residency with Northern Health. She grew up in Vanderhoof, moving to Kelowna to complete her prerequisites at UBCO and then graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from UBC in Vancouver in 2018. Jessie is thrilled to be back in the North and will continue to work for Northern Health, hopefully in a rural setting, after completing her residency. In her free time Jessie likes skiing, hiking, cooking, ceramics, and being in the great outdoors with friends.


Canadian Patient Safety Week: Not all meds get along

Rob Pammett, Research and Development Pharmacist, holding a large bag of meds.

Rob Pammett, Research and Development Pharmacist – Primary Care, removing expired and unneeded medications from a patient’s home.

Canadian Patient Safety Week is October 29 – November 2, and this year’s theme is Not All Meds Get Along. It’s a reminder that modern medicine is very complex and requires careful monitoring to make sure people don’t experience medication-related harm.

Two thirds of Canadians over age 65 take at least five medications regularly, and more than 25% take over 10. We enjoy longer, healthier lives partly thanks to effective modern medications, but we should always be aware of the possibility of medication-related harm.

Medication interactions

Sometimes medications can interact with each other, making them work too well or not well enough, with serious consequences.

For example, imagine taking a natural health product that made your blood pressure medication work too well – you might start feeling woozy, low-energy, or even faint. This is a real example of what might happen if you took  peppermint extract and felodipine, a common blood pressure medication.

The importance of reviewing medications

Medication reviews help develop a clear list of your medications and how you’re taking them. A medication review can also help optimize your medications, making them easier to manage, safer and more effective. A review also gives both you and your healthcare team an up-to-date list of your medications, which can be vital if your health status changes, or if you need emergency care.

A wide variety of medications on the counter.Before starting any new medications (including over-the-counter products from a pharmacy, natural health products and vitamins, or even cannabis products), it’s important to talk to your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse practitioner. They can review your medications and give advice on whether they’ll be safe and effective for you.

Who should have a medication review?

I use the following 5 questions to help identify people who might benefit from a medication review:

  1. Do you regularly take 5 or more medications? (including prescription and non-prescription products, vitamins and minerals)
  2. Do you take 12 or more doses of medication each day?
  3. Are you currently taking medications for 3 or more medical conditions?
  4. Have your medications or the instructions on how to take them changed 4 or more times in the past year?
  5. Do you take any of the following medications?
    • Anti-epileptics
    • Anti-coagulants
    • Drugs for chronic pain
    • Insulin
    • Drugs to lower blood sugar
    • Lithium
    • Digoxin
    • Methotrexate

Answering “Yes” to 3 or more of these questions means there’s a good chance that your medications can be optimized: you should ask for a medication review. Stay healthy and have a great Canadian Patient Safety Week!

Rob Pammett

About Rob Pammett

Rob Pammett is the Research and Development Pharmacist – Primary Care, a partnership between Northern Health and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia, where he holds the rank of Assistant Professor (Partner). He has an active clinical role in multiple primary care homes in Prince George and works with interprofessional teams to provide comprehensive care to patients.