Supporting pediatric care in a time of need

Monday, January 16, 2023

Stock image of adult hand holding infant's hand.

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), a pediatric hospital in Ottawa, has been over capacity this viral season due to the surge of patients experiencing respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID-19. Waterloo Pharmacy co-op students answer CHEO’s emergency call for help.

University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy students have stepped up to help to fill clinical roles, thanks to the flexibility and support of their current co-op employers.

“I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support that Waterloo School of Pharmacy has provided us. Pediatric care is in a time of true need, and they have answered the call,” says Dr. Nisha Varughese, pharmacy drug distribution manager for CHEO.

A specialized role was created by CHEO where pharmacy students would be most effective to help meet the needs of the hospital as the situation fluctuates.

“Many of our students contacted me immediately wanting to rise to the challenge of helping the most vulnerable among us, the children,” says Anthony Miller, experiential learning coordinator and instructor at the Waterloo School of Pharmacy.

Among the Waterloo School of Pharmacy co-op students, Parsa Ali (PharmD ’24 in progress) and Duaa Osman (PharmD ’24 in progress) are working part-time at the hospital in addition to their full-time co-op placements.

Parsa Ali and Duaa Osman

Left to right: Parsa Ali (PharmD ’24 in progress) and Duaa Osman (PharmD ’24 in progress)

“Being able to support CHEO and contribute to the care of pediatric patients has been incredibly important,” Osman says.

At the time of CHEO’s request, all Waterloo pharmacy students were already employed. It is thanks to the current co-op employers who adjusted their co-op students’ schedules, that students were able to provide their support.

In Ali and Osman's case, their co-op employers, Costco and the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, immediately allowed the students to help the hospital during this crisis by reducing or adjusting their hours.

“The role can change from day to day and requires us to be flexible. As future pharmacists it’s important that we continue to be adaptable as health-care professionals,” Osman says.

Students are providing support at the hospital’s main dispensary and the outpatient pharmacy, KidCare.

“Our goal is to process requests at the in-patient pharmacy within 24 hours of admission but with an average of 22 new admissions a day and as many as 38, the number of required medication reconciliations has drastically increased,” Ali says.

Ali and Osman experienced a steep learning curve as neither had worked in this type of role yet.

“Working as a pharmacy student during a surge crisis can be challenging, but it is also a valuable opportunity to gain experience and make a positive impact on the health and well-being of patients,” Ali says.

Despite the increased workload, everyone at CHEO has been supportive of their roles as students and have created a positive work environment for both Ali and Osman.

The existing relationship between CHEO and the School through the co-op program was incredibly important during this time of need.

“I am proud of the Ottawa pharmacy students and their employers, this crisis revealed how valuable the Waterloo School of Pharmacy Co-op program is,” Miller says.

Waterloo School of Pharmacy students will continue to help CHEO in 2023 with a new group of students completing their co-op term in Ottawa this winter.