GRANT HAMILTON / BRANDON SUN
Lori Dangerfield, of Home Health Care Pharmacy in Brandon, poses with a vintage set of scales, balancing a new pill bottle against an old-style apothecary jar. Dangerfield has spent almost 35 years working for Super Thrifty Drugs Canada, a Brandon-based company that has expanded from its Wheat City roots to operate stores throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nunavut. When she was just a kid, Dangerfield, who is also a Super Thrifty shareholder, was introduced by a family member to what would become her lifelong career. And she hasn’t looked back since.
What was it that intrigued you, that prompted you to get involved in pharmacy in the first place? Or did it just kind of evolve?
I always had an interest in the sciences. And I had an aunt who was a pharmacist in Winnipeg, and she worked at St. Boniface Pharmacy and took me, when I was a young child, into the pharmacy just to see what it was like — on a Sunday, I think. And it kind of piqued my interest, and it went from there.
Where did you take your training?
I took a year of science at Waterloo, and then came back to Winnipeg and took a second year of science and applied for pharmacy at U of M and got in — I graduated from U of M. And while I was going to school I worked summers for Super Thrifty.
Because Brandon’s always been home, right?
Brandon’s always been home. So I’ve always been with the one company. Super Thrifty’s a great group to work with and for. They’re good people and they care about everybody.
Tell me about the people you work with at Home Health Care Pharmacy.
The whole staff is great — I really enjoy working with them. But Joss March is extra special. It’s been a real treat working with him. Joss was one of the original founding partners in Super Thrifty, and he’s been at Home Health for probably the last 10 to 15 years. He’s just a tremendous fellow and a really caring, compassionate pharmacist. So I’m really enjoying having the opportunity to continue to work with Joss.
He’s sort of semi-retired now?
He is. He and I have basically traded shifts! He comes in a few days a week and covers holidays and things like that. So it’s wonderful to have him around.
Well, he must like it, too, if he’s not pulling away.
You know what? He does. He absolutely loves it. He particularly likes the people. And he just can’t imagine what life would be like not being here at the pharmacy.
Now certainly this is a caring profession. And I’m in no way disparaging the larger places — the huge supermarkets and department stores that also offer pharmaceutical services. But may I hazard a guess that you probably would think your service is a bit better because you’re smaller and you really get to know your customers? And maybe they do at the bigger places, too, but I can’t believe that bigger is better in this case.
I think that’s exactly right. Home Health Care Pharmacy is actually the only pharmacy in the west end of Brandon. So we get to know our clients really well. We’re a very specialized store with specialized services.
We have five staff members who are trained fitters for compression stockings. We also have staff members trained to fit mastectomy supplies, back supports, knee supports, ankle braces.
And what we try and do, really, is offer seamless care for our customers when they come in. We generally see them as they go from high school to adults to caring for elderly parents. So we do get to know them very well. And that’s a great part of the job.
I’m sure it’s helpful for people, too, when someone other than their doctor knows their medical history.
You know, I think it’s interesting. The average person goes into a pharmacy 14 times in the course of a year. So the pharmacist is the most easily accessible, knowledgeable health-care professional that they can come and talk to, free of charge, without an appointment, as they need somebody. And for a lot of people, we’re basically their first contact with a health-care professional. So if they need further treatment, we can steer them on to their physicians, or if it’s something self-limiting, we can help them here at the store.
And I’m sure a big concern would be that whole drug-interaction thing, too, which is something you’re very aware of.
One of the things we do is spend a lot of time going through patients’ profiles and determining whether there are any drug interactions. And it’s a safety measure for all of the customers when they come in.
What we do for a lot of our patients is we blister-package their medication. That’s where I was talking about the seamless-care avenue. So we can send their medications out every four weeks; we contact their physicians for renewals on their prescriptions. If there are drug shortages, which has been our major concern lately, we can help them to source alternate forms of their existing medications, or changes to their medications — we’ll contact their physicians and make recommendations. So it’s just giving people the easiest opportunity to take their medications in a safe and effective way.
This is a tangent, but people, I’m sure, are often wondering, why are there drug shortages sometimes? Something becomes popular and there’s a huge demand, or ...?
There’ve been multiple reasons for the drug shortages lately. Some of the companies had difficulties sourcing raw materials for development of certain drugs. There were also issues with some plant closures, and then there was a fire at a major plant in Quebec. So that’s become a major part of our jobs lately, is trying to source different drugs for our patients.
I don’t think this perception exists so much anymore, but when I was 16 and working at a drugstore downtown — White Cross Drugs — there was that sort of disparaging attitude that pharmacists were just pill-counters. But you’re not! You’re degreed up the ying-yang, and you need to know about all these drugs and their interactions — there’s so much more to it than just 30 pills in a jar!
You know, pharmacy has come a long way from that lick, stick and pour stage. Now, graduates from pharmacy school have taken a minimum of five years of university before they’re qualified to work as a pharmacist. And they’re trained in medicinal chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, pharmacognosy — they’re very well trained. And they understand drugs better than anyone else in the health-care profession. So we’re often consulted to make recommendations for physicians. And we’ve really become an accepted part of the health-care team — we work together with other health-care professionals to provide those services.
It must have been fairly satisfying to have been part of that evolution. Or did you come in sort of on the enlightened edge of this?
I kind of came in on the cusp — it was kind of the beginning. And it’s been really gratifying to see the progression. And right now the Pharmaceutical Act is before the Manitoba Government. We’re waiting for the next generation of changes for pharmacy. There’s going to be expanded prescribing authority for pharmacists — chronic care medications, when patients need refills, they won’t have to sit in a crowded waiting room for a prescription renewal. And we’re hopeful pharmacists will be trained to give immunizations for flu season, and a number of other avenues.
So it sounds like the profession is continuing to grow and expand.
Absolutely. And that’s exciting, because it’s all happening so we can offer more services and provide even better care for our clients.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 14, 2012