A nostalgia for the way pharmacy used to be motivates Jill Drury, PharmD, BCOP, to build relationships with her patients. For the patient-oriented focus she brings to oncology pharmacy, the Chicago-area pharmacist has been recognized as this year’s winner of the T.O.P. Pharmacist award.
Drury’s philosophy, which she incorporates into her practice, is that pharmacy can play a large role in enhancing a patient’s quality of life through counseling, listening, and being a universal reference point for patients and providers.
Pharmacy was not a profession that tempted Drury until she got a job as a pharmacy technician at a small independent community pharmacy while in high school in Wisconsin. “What I liked most about it was that everyone knew my name,” she said. “My image of a pharmacy is the pharmacy I grew up working in. Everyone knew the name of the pharmacist behind the counter and he knew all the names of the patients, and it felt like a community.”
She has carried that sense of community forward in her career as an oncology pharmacist, establishing connections with patients at every opportunity, such as in the infusion center. “What better time to talk to someone than when he or she is in the infusion center for a 3-hour infusion,” she said.
Blending the Traditional and Nontraditional
Her nostalgic view of the pharmacist compliments what she calls the “unique nontraditional” role of the oncology pharmacist, who must assist in medication plans that adhere to evidence-based practices. The blending of the traditional pharmacist role with the nontraditional aspects inherent in being an oncology pharmacist is helpful to devising treatment plans that must be highly individualized, she believes. “I bring the nostalgic part of my profession into my current role,” she said. “I take a lot of what I learned early on in the pharmacy to these new nontraditional roles of how pharmacy is practiced.”
Being involved with the clinical aspects of oncology has enhanced her appreciation for experiences, and the importance of sharing those experiences with her patients. As Drury puts it, “take the trips and eat the cake.” Her love of travel and food is well known, and it is not uncommon for her to share stories of her travels.
“Talking to patients about their drug therapies and treatment plans can be overwhelming,” she said. “Sometimes patients don’t want to talk about how they feel. They want to hear something positive.”
Said Rebecca Roche, a colleague of Jill’s, “…Jill has created hundreds of relationships with patients who are experiencing their personal best and worst of times. Jill’s patients are all on journeys living with diagnoses that have made her re-evaluate her life living without a diagnosis. The famous ‘bucket list’ is what comes to mind for many when they learn they have cancer. Yet, in a number of situations, it’s too late for some to check off travel destinations on that dreamed up list. Instead, Jill’s spent the last few years bringing the bucket to her patients. Jill’s traveled to places around the world that many patients wish they could visit. Jill’s used her savings to bring back photos, culture, videos, authentic recipes, and many stories of adventure and astonishment. In return, she’s been able to see her patients mentally check off a destination with a smile.”
An Immense Curiosity
After finishing high school in the Midwest, Drury’s curiosity took her to New York City, where she attended Fordham University and worked in hospital pharmacies and larger chain pharmacies.
“Little by little I tried to bring what I learned as a pharmacy tech or as a pharmacy student into my practice; making sure my patients knew who I was, making sure I knew who they were, and developing my own sense of pharmacy,” she said.
Her curiosity serves her well as an oncology pharmacist, she says, a field that encourages creativity in its mixture of science and clinical care. She cherishes her role as a liaison between physicians, nurses, and her patients, a role she refers to as the “center of care” from which a patient’s care plan can be directed. “Oncology is an area of medicine where that model fits in very nicely because you have time and a listening and willing patient in front of you,” she said. “It’s a field of medicine in which creativity and curiosity are encouraged.”
She received her doctorate of pharmacy from Midwestern University in Illinois. Living in Chicago, she appreciates the learning opportunities available with the proximity to large academic centers and national thought leaders. While working in the outpatient oncology service at Rush University, and later at BioScrip, Drury helped incorporate concepts such as medication therapy management and comprehensive medication brown bag sessions into the oncology practice setting.
Another peer, Joan Linscott, RN, BSN, had this to say about Drury’s efforts, “With over 5000 patients visiting our practice setting, Jill has been very influential in assisting us with compliance measures. As a pharmacist preceptor and professor for a number of pharmacy schools, Jill remains on the cutting edge of therapy by practicing evidence-based medicine. Pharmacy management has certainly been streamlined in our clinic due to Jill’s ideas and team effort. Her students and patients are a priority and her ability to assist has been beyond rewarding to the health care system.”
Encouraging her coworkers to consider the patient standing in front of them, “brightens the picture and takes away the overwhelming element out of pharmacy,” said Drury. “Hope, courage, and cure are words often used in cancer. Those are big words with a lot of expectations that come from professionals and the patients. The standards are high. The ability to focus and collaborate on thoughts and ideas is essential to achieve those things, like hope.”
Collaboration can take many forms, she said, but the simplest form of collaboration is communication. Talking to her patients and learning their fears and interests as they sit in the infusion chair helps to forms bonds and foster trust. “The foundation of traditional pharmacy is trust, and that’s the nostalgic part of my profession that I bring into my current role,” she said.
Drury would like to thank TEVA Oncology for this 2013 T.O.P. Pharmacist award.