Q&A with pharmacist of the year

Dr Janet Sluggett

Dr Janet Sluggett, a researcher and pharmacist, was awarded the 2017 SA/NT Pharmacist of the Year Award by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

Dr Sluggett is a member of the 18-person multidisciplinary CDPC team working on the “SImplification of Medications Prescribed to Long-tErm care Residents” (SIMPLER) study. The SIMPLER study aims to simplify complex medication regimens in residential aged care, and reduce associated burden for residents and aged care provider staff.

Helping Hand Aged Care is a collaborator on the SIMPLER project. As part of this research partnership, Dr Sluggett is embedded within Helping Hand two days per week.

What made you interested in pursuing research into medication use for residents of aged care facilities and people with cognitive decline?

As a pharmacist, I’m passionate about maximising the benefits and reducing the risks of medicines use, particularly for people with cognitive decline and residents of aged care facilities. I first became interested in this area through my work as a clinical pharmacist based in transitional care units and hospital stroke units. Since completing my PhD, I’ve been involved in a range of different projects aiming to optimise the way medicines are used by older people and the opportunity to contribute with the CDPC has been a really valuable experience.

Researchers from the CDPC Activity 11 have developed and validated MRS GRACE (the Medication Regimen Simplification Guide for Residential Aged Care). Can you tell us more about MRS GRACE?

MRS GRACE is the first validated tool to assist pharmacists and medical practitioners to determine whether the medications prescribed to a resident can be consolidated. Esa Chen, Professor Simon Bell and I worked with clinicians, consumers and aged care providers to develop MRS GRACE. A manuscript and short video summarising the development of MRS GRACE will be available from the Clinical Interventions in Aging journal website within the next couple of weeks.

Could MRS GRACE also be used for older people who are not living in aged care facilities and receive home support?

Yes. The promising early results from the SIMPLER study have led to an expansion of the project to involve clients who receive Helping Hand aged care services in their own home. In conjunction with our expert panel, we have made minor modifications to MRS GRACE and will now test the revised tool in the community setting.

You are a pharmacist researcher embedded within Helping Hand Aged Care – can you please tell us more about this innovative approach?

Through a partnership between Helping Hand, CDPC and Monash University, I work as an embedded researcher within Helping Hand two days per week. I think it’s vital to understand the needs and perspectives of all stakeholders when implementing a new process such as medication simplification, and running a large multi-centre clinical trial is very much a team effort! Being based within Helping Hand has been really valuable and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with residents, family members and staff.

Last year you were also awarded the Australia Association of Gerontology (AAG) SA Division 2017 Robert Penhall Early Career Research Award. What do you hope to achieve in the next stage of your career?

This year, I’m looking forward to continuing our research in partnership with aged care providers, consumers and caregivers, and implementing a modified version of MRS GRACE in the community setting. I’m also excited to expand on our work with the Optimising Pharmacotherapy through PharmacoEpidemiology Network (OPPEN), which is a collaboration of 8 leading international research groups who are committed to achieving best possible medicines use among older people. We’ve just published consensus guidelines for optimising geriatric pharmacotherapy in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

Additional information
The SIMPLER study is being conducted in collaboration with Helping Hand Aged Care. Read more about it in this story on the CDPC website, Keeping Medications Simple.

Dr Sluggett is a Research Fellow with the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety, in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University.

Caption (below): The SIMPLER research team: Dr Janet Sluggett, Professor Simon Bell (Monash University), Tess Caporale (Research nurse, Helping Hand), Megan Corlis (Director - R&D, Helping Hand), Michelle Hogan (Client Safety and Quality Consultant, Helping Hand) and Jan Van Emden (Business Manager - R&D, Helping Hand)

Janet Sluggett receiving award
the SIMPLER reserach team
Janet with other people receiving awards