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Rita’s lessons for pharmacy (and life)

Rita's lessons for pharmacy (and life) | Headshot of Rita Winn - The Canadian Foundation For Pharmacy

Rita’s lessons for pharmacy (and life)

SEPTEMBER 2020 – Rita Winn has spent the last 30 years in community pharmacy, including 22 years at Lovell Drugs where she served as General Manager and Chief Operation Officer. 

As the recipient of the 2020 Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s prestigious Pillar of Pharmacy Award, we asked Winn to look back on her career so far and share her advice for professional (and personal) fulfillment.

What is your “secret to success”? In my case, it’s about working hard and doing right by my patients—and having a passion for learning because your education doesn’t end when you leave pharmacy school. I probably have more continuing education credits than most practising pharmacists. 

Did you always consider yourself a leader? Not at all. I was very shy as a kid and then my dad made me do a public speaking contest in Grade 8 (I won second place). He said ‘you’re going to go places and you need to do this.’ So I’ve allowed myself to get outside my comfort zone and it has worked out. Now I enjoy public speaking and teaching others.

What makes a good leader? You don’t influence people by telling them what to do as that can only go so far and doesn’t help them to grow. It’s about sharing ideas and encouraging people to feed on those ideas that shows more leadership. 

You’re such an advocate for the profession. How can we get more pharmacists to do the same? As I mentioned, if you have ideas you have to talk about them. You can influence people and make positive changes by sharing ideas. Maybe you can’t do anything about it yourself, but someone else will. It’s also important to get involved, even if you think you’re not good enough or have nothing to say—put yourself out of your comfort zone because everyone has something to offer. 

What’s a memorable idea that blossomed into something more? In my early practice, blood glucose monitors were just coming out and not available in pharmacies. I thought they were something that all my patients with diabetes needed so I did my research, contacted a manufacturer and got the monitors into the store. From there we developed a great diabetes practice. We also started getting involved in consulting on medical cannabis five years sooner than most. We saw a need for patient information and thought, why leave that to non-regulated cannabis practitioners.

So it’s about directing change and not just reacting to it? Yes, and we need more frontline pharmacists to be aware of what’s going on in terms of legistation and the changes their associations are working on. Unless you know what’s going on, it’s hard to elevate your scope of practice. Pharmacists need to be talking to the doctors in their communities so they know we’re around and what we can do. They need to get involved in health care in their communties.

Still, not every idea can come to fruition. How have you overcome setbacks? When something wasn’t working, instead of feeling defeated I would step back and regroup and think about another approach. It’s about good problem-solving and not taking ‘no’ as an answer. 

You’re nearing retirement, but still working as a Director for Lovell. What does that entail? I’m still an ideas person but now I’m coaching pharmacists and they’ll bounce ideas off me. My role is to provide guidance and advice, and to liase with with the [regulatory] college as needed. We’re also working on opening a few new Lovell locations in the new year so I’m sharing my vision on what those stores will look like. I’ll still be going to conferences too once those are back so I can keep in touch with what’s going on. 

What’s the best part of being a pharmacist in 2020? Just look at the scope of possiblities in front of us. There are so many great things we can do within our scope of practice. As time goes on we’ll see the impact we have on the healthcare system and so will governments. With this pandemic, virtual care is really taking off and people will see that the pharmacist has a great role. 

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