First clinical pharmacist on the Addiction Recovery and Community Health Team at the Royal Alexandra Hospital pushes the expectations of pharmacy practice

    Alumna Essi Salokangas (BSc Pharm 2016) provides a full scope of patient care in her role on the ARCH team with the Royal Alex's Inner City Health and Wellness Program.

    By Kalyna Hennig on March 6, 2020

    Essi Salokangas (BSc Pharm 2016) is the first Clinical Pharmacist on the Addiction Recovery and Community Health (ARCH) Team at the Royal Alexandra Hospital's Inner City Health and Wellness Program (ICHWP). In 2018, she was named one of Avenue Edmonton's Top 40 Under 40 for her work creating the Adherence and Community Engagement (ACE) team to serve people with HIV/AIDS who have trouble accessing care.


    Now, Salokangas is part of a collaborative group of academics and clinicians committed to excellence in patient care, and building strong relationships between the community and healthcare services. The ICHWP has three core components: first, the Addiction Recovery and Community Health (ARCH) Team of which Salokangas is a member; second, an embedded research team; and, third, the Supervised Consumption Service Team. ARCH, the clinical component of ICHWP, is a specialty consult service that brings evidence-informed substance use care, health promotion, and social stabilization to the bedside in the hospital setting. The unique role is important to her for many reasons.


    “I’ve always been interested in the science of drugs,” says Salokangas. “I also knew it was important to me that my career included the opportunity for conversation and relationships. Pharmacy provides a unique and dynamic environment for all of these values and interests to converge.”


    As the pharmacist on the ARCH Team, Salokangas’ roles are primarily medication management, preventative health and patient education, seamless care, and program development. In her day to day practice, she truly uses her full scope of practice, including:

    supporting a complex cross titration between opioid agonist treatments (OAT)

    using her APA to initiate anticraving medications for alcohol use disorder supporting and providing recommendations for an inpatient - initiation of injectable opioid agonist treatment

    updating immunizations during a hospital stay

    communicating complex treatment changes or treatment plans with patients and community partners 

    directly informing community care providers of changes during hospital admissions when patients leave against medical advice

    creating policies and procedures for slow release oral morphine, injectable opioid agonist treatment, access to Hepatitis C treatment - for inpatients, access to intrauterine contraception for inpatients 


    “ARCH creates community within the hospital, which allows us to build lasting relationships with our patients,” says Salokangas. “These relationships build trust and history – both of which are so important for engagement in care and ensuring that that care feels safe for patients. It’s important to me that my patients feel heard and supported. I want to help my patients feel like the healthcare system can be safe for them. I am so honored to work on the ARCH Team as their first pharmacist, and am grateful to be a witness to my patients’ journeys.”


    To students and other pharmacy professionals, Salokangas encourages them to keep their eyes open to unique opportunities. 


    “Don’t be afraid to challenge the expectations of a typical pharmacist role,” she says. “By pushing the limits of these expectations, pharmacists can truly showcase their immense value as providers and as advocates.”