By Dr Lew Kaung Yuan (third from right)
Principal Clinical Pharmacist
Department of Oncology Pharmacy, NCCS
As Singapore’s population ages, demand for more and better healthcare will continue to grow. How do we meet this demand and the projected growth in patient numbers?
For us in oncology pharmacy, our answer lies in academia –  to help our staff grow and tackle more challenges, we need to invest our time in research and education.
But we know with our small team of 11 full-time staff, fitting academia into our busy schedule is not easy.
We decided we needed to transform our department towards a future state that incorporates research and education into our daily work. We needed to make continuing education more structured and become a regular aspect of staff development.

We started planning the transformation in March 2013. Three months later, we drew up a new schedule that allocated ‘off-stage’ slots for staff to do research and education, with the more senior staff being given more ‘off-stage’ slots.
To ensure that the team’s work performance and KPIs do not suffer, we gathered feedback from patients and monitored our clinical service standards.
We found that despite slotting in more time for research and education, our service standards did not drop. Not just that, we were also able to meet our training and education objectives.
Our staff could easily meet their continuing education targets, and our research efforts also grew, demonstrated in the growing number of newly initiated research projects and completed publication, presentation and poster output. An example is our recent study on drug related problems in elderly oncology patients.
The changes to our schedules and the meeting of education and research targets required not just teamwork but individual effort as well. As with all improvements, we face the constant challenge of sustaining our efforts given the need to maintain clinical excellence.
Having come this far through, our team is assured that we can make time for academia. But it sure requires effort and teamwork.