Advice, Current Students, Life at UBC Pharm Sci

My Practicum Experience: Karen Teng in Cobble Hill, BC

One of the most nerve-racking things about pharmacy school is waiting to find out where your practicum placement is. I remember opening up ‘E-Value’ and staring blankly at my screen thinking: “Where’s Cobble Hill?”

Cobble Hill sunset. Photo by Karen Teng.

Cobble Hill sunset. Photo by Karen Teng.

I knew most of the major cities in BC but I had never heard of Cobble Hill before. I had no idea if it was in Northern BC, in the interior, or on the island. Turns out, Cobble Hill is a little under 4 hours from Vancouver on Vancouver Island. It’s a small town with a population of under 2,000 people.

I was born and raised in Vancouver and prior to my practicum I had never lived outside of the city, or even alone. I was nervous about going to Cobble Hill, a place that was foreign to me, with no familiar faces and an entirely new learning environment.

It was challenging to find accommodation for only one month. I started to do my research about Cobble Hill but what was available online was very limited. I was quite worried and stressed but thankfully, my fellow students gave me advice and support. I found a place within a ten minute walk to the pharmacy I worked at, and the owners and their pets were very welcoming. Little did I know, however, it wasn’t a common thing in the community to walk to get to places. I was an unusual sight on the roads, walking to and from work, and was soon to be known to all my co-workers as the one and only person walking on the roads!

I lived on a farm with horses and chickens. I wasn’t used to seeing miles and miles of farm land but it was very picturesque and relaxing, especially at sunset. I did feel homesick as this was my first time living away from home and being alone. To help deal with my homesickness, I was able to video call with my friends and family almost daily.

The first few days at the pharmacy were quite overwhelming, but the pharmacy staff and customers were very welcoming. My preceptor supported me and helped to build my confidence in counselling patients. She allowed me to take the initiative to make recommendations to doctors and dentists in-person and over the phone. She would give me pointers and tips before counselling patients or going over to talk to the doctors. I was lucky enough to be at a location where the doctor’s office was right next door. I was able to walk over and discuss with different doctors about drug therapy problems and make my recommendations. I was given the opportunity to collaborate inter-professionally as many students weren’t able to just walk next door and get to know the doctors.

One unique difference that I experienced while on practicum, as compared to working in Vancouver, was that patients in this small town were more easygoing and friendly. They were less time-sensitive and a lot more talkative. It felt like everyone knew each other and were always asking how their kids were or their plans for the weekend. It was very heartwarming to be part of this tight-knit community! Patients and customers were much more likely to share with you their plans and would make recommendations on where I should visit while I was here.

Another highlight I had during my practicum was being able to interview several patients. I was quite surprised how comfortable patients were to be interviewed by me, a first year Pharmacy student. I felt very well respected as they trusted me, a stranger, to better understand their condition and themselves as a patient. It was a very valuable experience as a pharmacy student to learn about the patient and discuss their drugs and conditions. Over the 4 weeks of my practicum, I was able to confidently counsel and interview patients and collaborate with other health care professionals. It was a very valuable experience for both my professional and personal development. This practicum also gave me the opportunity to explore more of BC and meet some wonderful people.

— Karen Teng, second-year Entry-to-Practice PharmD student



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