The Early Career Pharmacist (ECP) director at PSA is passionate about new and emerging roles, supporting students, and a growing wave of positivity across the profession
Lauren Burton is the PSA’s second ECP director, having taken over from Taren Gill who had been appointed to the inaugural position in mid 2016.
Back then the PSA Board had made a strategic decision to appoint an ECP director to provide a voice to the future of the profession.
“This is a historic and important milestone for the organisation, which proudly represents all pharmacists in Australia, including our young, rising stars of the profession,” said Joe Demarte, who was national president at the time.
Ms Burton, a pharmacist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, was appointed to the PSA national board in July 2018 and has since hit the ground running in her new role.
She joined the organisation at an exciting time, with several new initiatives taking place during her tenure so far.
“We just released our Medication Safety report and Pharmacists in 2023, so a lot of our efforts and work will go into realising and delivering those actions,” she tells AJP.
“I’m working to build this strategy around how we go about that at a board level. I’m also looking to continue making sure that I develop my skills in being a board director … to take on opportunities in that space so that my contribution is a good one and a positive one.”
Ms Burton chairs the ECP national team, acknowledging that each of the states have their own ECP groups.
“I really, really enjoy that role and that space,” she says. “We’ve got a few aims for the year, we’re trying to create alignment around the objectives of what our state groups are achieving, we’re wanting to really embed ECPs that are active and engaged with those state groups in some of the decision-making and activities that are happening at a local level and across the organisation.
“ECPs include pharmacy students, interns or pharmacists with up to 10 years’ experience,” Ms Burton explains.
“I’m really mindful of trying to create and support those future leaders and current leaders in both the clinical space but also thought leadership as well, because we’ve got some really passionate and insightful early career pharmacists that have a lot to offer and are really committed to the organisation.
“It’s raising their profile, getting them involved, supporting them and giving them the opportunities to gain experience and hopefully further continue and grow in their ability to contribute to the organisation and profession, and also wherever they find themselves practising as well.”
Ms Burton discovered pharmacy at 16 years old working as a casual pharmacy assistant in a local community pharmacy, which she did for almost 10 years while studying at university.
She graduated with a Master of Pharmacy from the University of Western Australia about five years ago, although she is originally from Melbourne.
Ms Burton moved to Perth almost seven years ago to do her Master’s degree, and prior to that had done her undergraduate degree at the University of Melbourne, majoring in pathology with an honours year at the Peter McCallum Cancer Hospital looking at breast cancer metastasis.
Although she now works in hospital pharmacy, currently looking at reforming how S4 and S8 medicines are utilised and managed within four hospital sites, she is passionate about the role of community pharmacy.
“I think it’s really important that we sustain and grow and optimise our community pharmacy network,” says Ms Burton.
“They’re the most accessible healthcare professionals in our healthcare system and they’re highly valued by our communities. So I think one of the most important things we do is continue to build and support that network and encourage good pharmacists to get involved with community pharmacy.
“The development of new or expanded roles is not to be at the expense of our community pharmacy network—it is absolutely essential to the Australian healthcare model that we have a really healthy and strong community pharmacy network.”
Liaising closely with NAPSA is an important part of supporting the next generation of pharmacists, Ms Burton explains.
“Students seem to value so much the participation in NAPSA activities and being part of something in that way, and it’s linking people to understand that when they become a pharmacist, where they get that membership and being part of that broader community comes from your involvement with PSA,” she says.
“Pharmacists needs to feel empowered, and they need to understand how they can be embedded in our health system in different ways. We need our student pharmacists to understand their responsibility in the healthcare system and see examples of where they can go in the future.”
“ECPs include pharmacy students, interns or pharmacists with up to 10 years’ experience.”
So where does she see pharmacy heading in the next decade or two? What will pharmacy look like for current students?
“One of leading issues at the moment is people want to understand the career pathways and what are they required to do in addition to their degrees to make sure that they’re qualified to embark on some of these new and emerging, or non-traditional, patient-facing roles,” says Ms Burton.
“Pharmacist prescribing is coming, it’s going to come, PSA is very committed to building a model where pharmacists are able to get that accreditation or upskilling in prescribing and be able to – in a collaborative care model – execute prescribing in primary care and hospital settings.
“GP pharmacists, the evidence is there, we’ve got a number of projects at the PSA at the moment that are demonstrating and testing the different ways to implement this.
“We know it works, but we’re committed to also ensuring that the way that pharmacists are embedded is done in a meaningful way that really optimises a contribution. Embedding pharmacists into healthcare teams is essential and I definitely think that’s something that should be a priority.”
She believes the future looks positive for early career pharmacists.
“It’s really exciting because there’s going to be limitless opportunity for people moving forward,” says Ms Burton.
“I think our young pharmacists need to keep in mind that they’re probably going to have diverse careers, they’re probably going to end up in places they never imagined.
“We’ve gone through this wave where there was a little bit of negativity around pharmacy for a while, a bit of doom and gloom, but that’s definitely changed, there’s definitely an air of change. People are attracted to the profession because they see the opportunity.
“And I think there’s just been a real attitude shift that PSA’s also stopped and listened and started to take a more assertive approach in the way that it represents our profession.”
One of the more negative debates surrounding the profession has been around so-called “turf wars”.
Ms Burton says another point highlighted by ECPs in their White Paper is the importance of getting along with other health stakeholders.
Pharmacists and other healthcare practitioners are co-dependent and should work synergistically together, she says.
“At times in the public arena some negative rhetoric can happen. But at the end of the day we need to remove turf wars and politics out of it, and have a healthy debate.
“We can have disagreements, but we need to be constructive. Members have that expectation of their organisations that everyone should get along, because there’s so much work to be done and there’s so much that needs to happen—we don’t have time to waste on not getting along.”
What’s topping ECP concerns at the moment?
- Rural, regional remote – how are we helping those communities?
- How PSA and pharmacy is addressing Aboriginal healthcare
- The role of technology, electronic systems, and closed loop electronic medicines management systems
- Ensuring the sustainability and quality of our community pharmacy network
- Research – making sure there’s a growing body of evidence to support new and evolving roles, and medication management interventions
- Need to increase consumers’ and patients’ understanding of the role of the pharmacist
- Remuneration needs to be adequate and reflect what pharmacists are doing
- Getting along with other healthcare professionals