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Embracing Change in Walkerton, Ontario

Brown’s Pharmacy | Picture of Ryan Fullerton, Owner/Pharmacist - Canadian Foundation For Pharmacy

Embracing Change in Walkerton, Ontario

MARCH 2023 – For 86 years and counting Brown’s Pharmacy has served the rural community of Walkerton, Ont., and continues to prosper in the ever-changing pharmacy landscape. “We are always striving to push the profession forward as new roles/services become available to us,” says Owner/Pharmacist Ryan Fullerton.

This eagerness to embrace change has allowed Brown’s Pharmacy to not only survive but to thrive after all these years. “Community pharmacy is constantly changing and evolving; remaining stagnant can soon lead to you becoming irrelevant and under-serving your patients,” says Fullerton. “We firmly believe that if you aren’t moving forward, you are falling behind.”

Founded in 1937, the business was owned by the Brown family—Bill and Virginia, and later their son Ken—until Fullerton took over full ownership in 2017. “I became partners with Ken [in 2011] as he was looking for someone young to come in and continue the local community feeling and local ownership that the pharmacy has had since its opening,” explains Fullerton. “Ken was an excellent role model. He was constantly looking for ways to be innovative, and thrived in taking on new roles and challenges as pharmacy practice evolved and the needs of our patients and the local community changed.” 

The son of a pharmacist himself, Fullerton also finds inspiration in change. After graduating from University of Toronto’s School of Pharmacy in 2009, he worked as a relief pharmacist throughout the province, which allowed him “to observe how other people cared for their patients and operated their pharmacies so that I could pick out things that worked well and things that did not,” he says.

In 2020, Fullerton—who owns four other pharmacies in neighbouring communities—took on partner Katrina Wei to share the workload at Brown’s to enable the entire pharmacy team to function at a higher level.

That means ensuring staff work to their full scope of practice and add services in their areas of interest and according to patient need. “We offer almost every service you could seek from a community pharmacy, including new pharmacist minor ailments prescribing, Paxlovid prescribing, injections for all eligible medications, specialty sterile and non-sterile compounding, a full range of homecare sales, rentals, and services, travel clinic services, and health presentations to local groups,” says Fullerton. “Fulfilling these services in a rural community not only helps our patients and our business but helps take stress off of our overloaded emergency rooms, especially for the people in our community without a family physician.” 

Services continue to expand as needs dictate, too. With many people travelling again, the pharmacy has formed a partnership with a local physician, enabling pharmacists to “prescribe, dispense and administer almost any medication that may be required for travel.”

And currently underway is an initiative to train staff to instruct patients on self-administration of some infusion products. “Nursing has been extremely short-staffed in community services for some time,” says Fullerton. “This shortage has forced many patients to stay in hospital several days longer than otherwise necessary simply because they’re waiting on availability of community nurses to teach the administration of their infusion products.” In some circumstances, he says, patients or their family members can be taught to administer their own infusion products, particularly those who are eligible for infusion via elastomeric pumps. “In these cases, a half hour of teaching can enable that patient to return home, and free up a hospital bed at the same time.”

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