Julie Toppings: A Life in Pharmacy

A Prescription for a Satisfying Career and Better Patient Care

This is the second article in a series of articles by CCCEP about the value of high-quality continuing education for pharmacy professionals, the difference it can make to their practice and careers, and the role accreditation can play in ensuring the quality of continuing education.

Julie Toppings always knew the career she chose would focus on helping people. Raised in rural Saskatchewan, she noticed the way her local physicians and the pharmacists took such good care of everyone. This early observation kick-started her satisfying career in pharmacy. While she anticipated a rewarding experience in this field, she never imagined the critical role she would one day play in her patients’ lives.

Julie’s Career Journey

Julie attended the College of Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan which led to opportunities to work in both community and hospital settings. She gravitated to hospital practice, intrigued by pharmacists’ involvement in decision-making for drug therapy. Following school and upon completion of a hospital pharmacy residency, Julie spent a number of years working in Regina, Saskatchewan and Roblin and Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. One of her roles in Manitoba involved creating an outpatient asthma clinic right from the business case to operation. She returned back to the Regina General Hospital in 2005. Julie did a stint in cardiology before joining a specialty outpatient team, working primarily as a renal pharmacist — a niche she has found to be both challenging and rewarding.

Knowledge in Action: Saving Lives Through Education

As a pharmacist, you don’t always see the life-changing impact you may have on a patient’s life. Before meeting Julie, a patient with chronic kidney disease didn’t follow his nephrologist’s instructions because he didn’t feel any different and there was also a language barrier. As a result, he was not adherent to his medications for different reasons. Julie was fortunate to meet with this patient in multiple appointments and responded with encouragement and compassion. Using motivational interviewing and principles of health literacy, techniques she had learned in courses she had recently taken, she counseled him about the importance of his medication regime. She explained how improving his health would mean enjoying life so much more. As his health improved, his nephrologist reported that the patient had told him that without Julie’s help, he would likely have been on dialysis. This is just one of the memorable success stories that has made Julie’s career so gratifying.

Lifelong Learning is the Answer

Julie credits her lifelong learning with this positive outcome. In fact, she considers learning a continuous process, and a professional responsibility. Julie achieves her learning goals through completion of high-quality education programs, and it’s their accreditation that assures her that what she’s learning is valid, quantified, qualified, and unbiased. Among the programs Julie has completed are an Accredited Canadian Pharmacy Residency, Certified Asthma Educator, Advanced Method Certification for Immunizations and Injections from the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals and Certification in Anemia Management Collaborative Prescribing from the former Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, now a part of the Saskatchewan Health Authority. For her, lifelong learning is linked to job satisfaction, as it allows her to better care for patients, confidently precept pharmacy residents and students, mentor new pharmacists, practice to her full scope, and ultimately, improve and save lives. Julie urges pharmacists to pursue further education in the areas of their work that they particularly enjoy. She is also a strong believer in educating patients to be involved in their own health care.

The Learning Never Ends

In a career that has spanned a few decades, Julie Toppings has inspired those around her as she works diligently for the patients in her care. Approaching pharmacy with the idea that there is always more to learn, and always the chance to make an impact, Julie has found enviable satisfaction in this fulfilling career.