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How IMU Pharmacy Programme Empowers My Role as a Pharmacist in a Government Hospital

27 Jun 2022

Author of this article, Toh Ker Ro, is currently working as a pharmacist at Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

I still remember my first day vividly setting foot at IMU. The campus felt like a hospital: it was tranquil, with shiny-clean floor tiles and the omnipresent hand sanitiser in every corner of the campus (and that was the pre-covid era). Little did I know that several years later, I would graduate from IMU and start my pharmacist career at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL), one of the largest government hospitals in Malaysia. To be a professional pharmacist in a government hospital like HKL is to stay resilient under high pressure. Working in a government hospital can be extremely stressful: the high patient volume, tight healthcare budget, and long working hours can dishearten any dedicated pharmacist. As a pharmacist in HKL, I often have only 30 seconds to 1 minute on average to dispense medications to the patients, counsel them about the side effects of drugs, and answer any questions they might have.

Skills Development Sessions at the IMU’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre
Through the pharmacy skills development sessions at the IMU’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre (CSSC), students like me had the opportunity to role-play clinical scenarios with simulated patients from different backgrounds. Such ‘realistic but risk-free’ learning activities have empowered me to provide pharmacy services to my patients under stress and constraints without compromising the quality of care. We were also required to converse in Bahasa Melayu with patients in some lessons, which is the primary language used in the government hospital.

Besides, the holistic approach adopted by the IMU Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) (Hons) programme has prepared me for many pharmacy specialties in HKL. For instance, the clinical pharmacokinetics module offered in Semester 6 served as the cornerstone of my work in the hospital’s Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (TDM) department. To my surprise, many of my pharmacist colleagues who graduated from other universities claimed that they have never received proper exposure to pharmacokinetics knowledge. As a result, they had to put in more effort to upskill themselves on the job. I must confess that clinical pharmacokinetics was never my favourite module at IMU (because it’s so hard!). But in hindsight, these highly skilled modules offered by IMU BPharm (Hons) programme made me a job-ready pharmacist and gave me a significant confidence boost at work. While both resilience and professional knowledge are crucial to being a professional pharmacist, the most essential quality of all, in my opinion, is having empathy for every patient I meet on the job. To quote the President of IMU Group YBhg Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman:” To be a good doctor (or pharmacist) is to be a good human first”. IMU students like me were constantly reminded to be caring people and maintain a patient-centred approach in their daily practice. I always listen to my patients empathetically and foster a two-way conversation with them at work. Through empathy and good patient rapport, I can gather information from patients that the doctors often miss out. For instance, I once found out that a patient stopped taking perindopril (a blood pressure medication) because he developed a persistent dry cough after taking it. As a result, the patient’s blood pressure was not well-controlled due to poor medication adherence. I then suggested the doctor change his blood pressure medication to another medication called losartan, which is less likely to cause dry cough, hoping that it would improve the patient’s compliance and achieve optimal blood pressure control. Such a vital intervention would not have happened had I not invested enough time and energy to be empathetic and build trustful relationships with the patient in the first place.

My volunteer experience through IMU Cares while I was pursuing my degree had a long-lasting impact on my mission to improve healthcare services and delivery in Malaysia and inspired me to continue volunteering even after working in HKL. I now work as a pharmacy volunteer at a refugee clinic monthly to provide clinical services and drug counselling to refugees and asylum seekers in the Klang Valley area. Nothing beats the joy of doing a work that you love while helping vulnerable communities to live healthier lives.

Looking back to my university days, I miss the Mad Alchemy latte at the entrance, the roadside nasi lemak stall, and the friendly economic rice aunty in Vista B’s cafeteria. But most of all, I miss the dedicated and supportive lecturers in the School of Pharmacy, who generously impart their expertise and knowledge and always want nothing but the best for students. I’m also grateful for the professional services offered by supporting units such as Student Services and Academic Services. Thanks to the lovely staff at IMU, I had a conducive learning environment that allowed me to hone my pharmacy knowledge. I will continue carrying the memories I’ve created with my classmates and the lessons I was taught at IMU and strive to transform them into a positive impact on every patient I meet.

Written by: Toh Ker Ro (BP116) Fully Registered Pharmacist (RPh 022938), Hospital Kuala Lumpur

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