How does a new kid on the block at NCCS Pharmacy help boost a culture of continuous improvement? Mr Marcus Ng, a first-year pharmacist at the National Cancer Centre Singapore's (NCCS) Oncology Pharmacy, shares what it's like to be the newest member of the dynamic NCCS Pharmacy team.
Mr Marcus Ng is the new kid on the block in the Pharmacy department at National Cancer Centre Singapore and its new Wellness Ambassador.
1. When did you join NCCS?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in April 2020 and was supposed to join NCCS to do pre-registration training in June of the same year. Thanks to the pandemic, my planned graduation trip was cancelled so I joined NCCS on a part-time basis in May 2020 and became a full-time pharmacist at NCCS in January 2021.
2. What are your day-to-day responsibilities at the Oncology Pharmacy?
When the oncologists prescribe chemotherapy orders for their patients, we verify and manage the medication to ensure safety and best efficacy for the patient. If needed, we may recommend a change to the prescribing doctor for the chemotherapy order based on the patient's profile. We also ensure that the appropriate supportive medications, such as painkillers, are provided to the patient. Once that's done, we prepare the medication before dispensing it to our nursing colleages at the Ambulatory Treatment Unit (ATU). The ATU is where they administer the chemotherapy to the patient.
When the patient is undergoing chemotherapy, we dispense any supportive medications prescribed and provide medication counselling to them at their chairside in the ATU.
3. What was the most challenging part of becoming a full-time pharmacist?
It's a challenging job that requires us to be sharp and communicate very clearly with both clinicians and patients. As a pharmacist in training, all your work is reviewed by a senior pharmacist. The challenging part of transitioning from being a pre-reg pharmacist to a full-time pharmacist is that I had to be independent in making decisions! Understanding that added responsibility makes you a lot more careful. And I'm grateful to the team at the Oncology Pharmacy department who helped me get familiar with the workflow until I had a firm grasp of the role.
The team from the National Cancer Centre Singapore's Pharmacy department works together to improve their collective wellbeing.
4. What's the most rewarding part of your job?
Being able to put my knowledge into practice and knowing that I'm helping people is extremely rewarding. As a pharmacist I'm very aware that there is a person behind every prescription and that the work we do makes a difference in their lives.
Recently, there was a patient who was very emotional when I was dispensing their medication. I recognised in that moment that the best way to help was to listen, rather than just telling them they would be alright or hurrying to give instructions about the medication. As pharmacists, we are the last point of contact for a patient before they leave NCCS to go home, so we must demonstrate to them that we care for them and support them in their treatment journey.
5. You are the newest member of the NCCS Pharmacy team but you're the Wellness Ambassador of the department. How did that happen?
Associate Professor Lita Chew, the Head of NCCS Pharmacy, saw the need and opportunity to improve communication, voice concerns and improve the department's collective wellbeing. She nominated me to the role of Wellness Ambassador, I guess because I'm new and have fresh perspectives.
I worked closely with Assoc Prof Chew to launch "Your Voice Matters" in May 2021. It's a feedback platform for our department. I manage the online survey, which gives my teammates an opportunity to provide feedback, voice concerns or compliment a fellow team-member for their contributions. Submissions are anonymous, unless they provide their number for follow-up, so even the shyest or quiet members of the team can be heard!
I go through the feedback received and raise items that require action to Assoc Prof Chew, who works with the team leads to propose solutions. These items are acknowledged in the department meetings, so that the person who submits the feedback and the rest of the team are aware that it has been raised. This closes the loop and also gives other staff the opportunity to contribute their own ideas and solutions.
Staff wellbeing, whether it is physical, mental or emotional, is extremely important and "Your Voice Matters" gives our pharmacists an opportunity to highlight any concerns they might have and make it a better place to work. And all these improvements would definitely lead to even better care for our patients!
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