My journey in providing patient care from bedside to bench

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Dr Nusaibah Abdul Rahim – Lecturer, School of Pharmacy, Taylor’s University & Secretary and Academic Representative of the MPS Hospital Pharmacy Chapter.

When I began my pharmacy journey as a student, I always thought that I would be a community pharmacist and own my dream pharmacy. As a child, I had a fear of going to hospitals. However, in 3rd and 4th year, we all had to go for hospital attachments. To my surprise, a new spark developed in me and that was a passion for hospital pharmacy. I absolutely enjoyed talking to my patients and working together with the doctors and nurses in optimising patient care.

Upon graduating, I did my internship at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne. Here, I carried out bedside dispensing for discharge patients. I once counselled a patient on the use of oxycodone for pain management. Later to my surprise, the patient wrote a thank you card to the pharmacy department for the service provided and included a special thanks to “the one from Kuala Lumpur”. I remember that staff meeting so clearly where everyone looked at me and applauded. I will never forget that moment; a realisation that our day to day services and work bring a tremendous impact on patients.

I then came back to Malaysia after registering as an Australian pharmacist and registered as a Malaysian pharmacist. I was a clinical pharmacist at Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital (HTAR) and was involved in a few MTACs including Diabetes. I would call and follow up on all my patients and work closely with the endocrinologist. This again was very rewarding as I would see my patients’ improvement as I help titrate their insulin dose. I was also the leader of the pharmacy department’s Quality Assurance group. Using this platform, the team managed to increase the percentage of bedside dispensing which is crucial in ensuring continuity of care.

Working in the wards was when I first heard about polymyxins, a group of old antibiotics, used as last line therapy [1]. The devastating reality is that in 2050, the death toll due to superbugs has been estimated to be one person every 3 seconds [2]. This led me to pursue a PhD on polymyxins. The ultimate motivation in combatting antimicrobial resistance was to improve patient outcomes. After completing my PhD at Monash University, Melbourne, I came back and began my new journey at Taylor’s University.

I am now what they call an academic, a minority amongst the tens of thousands of Malaysian registered pharmacists. Although I miss being directly involved in pharmaceutical care, I believe findings from research could make a huge impact to society. My research is lab-based, where I spend my days in the microbiology lab carrying out experiments on the bench. Although challenging at times, helping patients as the end goal, keeps me going. I was very fortunate this year to secure a highly competitive grant from the Ministry of Education, as the principal investigator, to identify a novel synergistic polymyxin combination against a superbug.

As academics, teaching is also a major part of our role. Education shapes future pharmacists. I was a preceptor back when I was working as a clinical pharmacist and had many fruitful discussions with undergraduate students during their hospital attachment. It became evident, that the design of a pharmacy curriculum is very important as it has a responsibility of bridging the gap between academia and industry (e.g. retail pharmacies, hospitals and pharmaceutical industry). As educators, our role should be to shape competent, ethical and holistic pharmacy undergraduates that would then translate to the provision of better patient care. I really enjoy this role as I see the faces and journey of our nation’s future pharmacists.

Regardless of the role we take on as pharmacists; be it from the bedside or the bench, patient care exists in every facet of our lives as pharmacists. And due to that co-existence and interaction, I have loved every part of my journey and my career as a pharmacist. I look forward to more opportunities, challenges, and memorable moments in this ever-evolving world of Pharmacy.

1. Velkov T., Roberts K.D., Nation R.L., Wang J., Thompson P.E., Li J. Teaching ‘old’ polymyxins new tricks: new-generation lipopeptides targeting gram-negative ‘superbugs’. ACS Chem Biol. 2014;9(5):1172-7.
2. O’Neill J. Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally: final report and recommendations. 2016.

The opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the view of MPS YPC and the School of Pharmacy, Taylor’s University.

Dr. Nusaibah is a lecturer at the School of Pharmacy, Taylor’s University. She obtained her B.Pharm (Hons) and PhD at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Prior to joining academia, she was a clinical pharmacist. She is currently the Secretary and Academic Representative of the MPS Hospital Pharmacy Chapter.