As a pharmacist at Baycrest Hospital, Andrew Messiha connects with patients every day. “We are involved in rounds, we learn about each individual patient and create plans to make sure their medications are appropriate,” he said. Beyond the technical side of medication management, it is the ability to listen, communicate and provide care in a way that supports a patient and their family that enhances a pharmacists’ impact on patient care. In the geriatric palliative and psychiatric units where Messiha works, this is crucial. It is also the most rewarding part of his job. “I enjoy the patient interaction. As a pharmacist you can help every patient and knowing that you are making reasonable difference in that person’s life is a rewarding part for me,” said Messiha.
This past May, Messiha was paired with Jesse Ropat, a second year pharmacy student from the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy for an Early Practice Experience rotation. The Doctor of Pharmacy program at U of T emphasizes experiential education and each year students take part in hands-on learning through four-week rotations in a variety of direct patient care environments. The final year of the program is fully dedicated to advanced experiential rotations giving students a chance to build skills and sample a diverse range of potential career paths.
At Baycrest, Messiha and Ropat hit it off right away. “The first question I asked was ‘what does it look like for a student in my position to be successful?’” said Ropat who completed a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at University of Windsor before starting his PharmD degree. During his first year rotation in an outpatient pharmacy, Ropat shadowed pharmacists working in palliative cancer care and this inspired him to seek a rotation at Baycrest because of the hospital’s strong reputation in palliative therapy.
During his rotation, Ropat took every opportunity to learn and grow. Messiha’s advice and example added depth to his experience. “We spent a lot of time together, we would often sit and have coffee. He would tell me about innovative pharmacists he had met. Andrew has a very diverse professional experience and I wanted make the most of our time,” he said.
This drive to learn and make the most of his experience extended to all aspects of Ropat’s rotation and this impressed the Baycrest pharmacy team. “A lot of people are nervous to take on students because it involves more work, but it was a great experience,” said Messiha. “It was very rewarding for me to see our profession is looking really bright. The people coming up now really care about our patients. Working with someone who wanted to grow and improve himself was great.”
Ropat’s ability shone through particularly during interactions with patients and families. “I could tell he genuinely cared, he felt like he needed to provide what was best for the patient, and wasn’t just concerned about sticking to the guidelines,” said Messiha. “His communication style was amazing, he could breakdown difficult messages to the patient. He listened actively and showed a real grasp of how to deal with patients and families in a respectful and empathetic way.”
The two have kept in touch since the rotation ended, even running a 5 kilometer race together in Toronto. Having a mentor in the profession is reassuring for Ropat. “It’s important for pharmacy students to have a mentor,” he said. “All the experiences we are having are brand new. Having someone who has been through it before and who can help guide us is really important.”
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