Questions with QID: 5 Minutes with Kristen Watt

Have you met Kristen Watt? She is not only a clinical pharmacist but also an entrepreneur in the pharmaceutical space. She owns Kristen’s Pharmacy, a well-known woman-led pharmacy in Southampton, Ontario. Kristen’s community pharmacy primarily focuses on palliative care to ensure patients remain comfortable through the end of their life.

Continue reading to find out more about how Kristen strives to ensure that the quality of patient care is constantly improving!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself! What made you want to get into the pharmacy profession? 

I was interested in medicine in high school and had the opportunity to begin working in a Community Pharmacy at 16 years old. I worked there all through high school and was fascinated by how much the pharmacists knew and how much they could help patients. During my second year of university, I began to contemplate applications to professional schools (considering the MCATs, DATs etc.) and I realized Pharmacy was my one true love and put all my eggs in that basket, applying after my third year. I was thrilled to be accepted at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Pharmacy. I remain in touch with the pharmacists from that very first Community Pharmacy I worked in, hoping to be that role model for others in the future.

2. What is the most pressing issue for community pharmacists in Canadian healthcare today?

We’re at a real inflection point right now where the value of Community Pharmacists is being more well known and with it, our abilities are engaged. In Ontario, moving forward on a properly paid Minor Ailments program is paramount. It’s my hope this will lead to autonomous prescribing similar to what Alberta has. There is such a need for access to primary care and Community Pharmacy can help with that access. Importantly this needs to be properly remunerated allowing for Community Pharmacy to create programs giving the pharmacist the time and support needed to implement this care. 

3. You own Kristen’s Pharmacy, a woman-led and independent pharmacy. What are some of the benefits and challenges of the way that you’ve structured your business?

Being a very small independent business means we’re incredibly nimble. We have switched professional service booking software three times trying to find what works for us. We try new things and we drop the things that don’t serve us or our patients. This allows us to be micro-focused in certain areas that work for us. It can also be challenging to constantly innovate and grow when competing with the faceless big box pharmacies. The rapport we’ve built with our patients is truly our crown jewel and the reason we continue to grow and be successful.

4. Your primary focus is palliative care – what inspired you to take this on?

Before opening Kristen’s Pharmacy, I was a Long Term Care Clinical Consultant Pharmacist. I love this role in Pharmacy. It truly utilized our clinical skills. Understanding that the average length of stay in LTC is approximately 18 months helped shift my thinking about how we were treating patients. We need to better understand the goals of care. Quality vs. quantity. In taking on this mindset, I took courses from Pallium Canada – a not-for-profit focused on palliative care education. The premise of palliative care resonates with me – symptom management for the patient, alongside treatment or alone. Change from within is hard, and I missed the business aspect of Pharmacy and knowing that Canada is moving to keep people at home longer – so with all this in mind, I opened a Community Pharmacy that offers specialized services in palliative care. We need to destigmatize death and understand that patients can remain comfortable through the end. I hope to offer this to my patients who need it. I hope to teach future Pharmacists how to offer similar care.

5. How do you ensure the quality of patient care is constantly improving?

The most important thing is not to be the smartest person in the room. It’s to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. That is something I hope I’ve done well. I am constantly learning from those around me. I’m always trying to build networks and contacts that can elevate my practice. At every CE event I attend, I aim to bring back at least one thing – one practice tidbit, one shift in process, one thing that can change how we provide patient care in our microsphere. These changes, these connections, and this growth adds up over time to create a community of practice.