There’s life beyond pharmacy’s walls

healthcare professional reading patient chart isolated outside hospital, green trees

Despite the gloom settling over the pharmacy sector, there’s actually more opportunities out there than ever, writes Karalyn Huxhagen

Opportunities for those of us pharmacists of a more mature age appear to be burgeoning.

Gone are the doom and gloom days of asking yourself, “is there work out there?” My inbox, Facebook page, Twitter feed and LinkedIn feed are full of interesting opportunities to use  my abilities.

I have always been pleased that I made the change from nursing to pharmacy, though I would have loved to have been a helicopter retrieval paramedic if my body could have held that level of fitness.

During my early days at Longreach Hospital I did perform retrieval work, even though I was the pharmacist. Some days it was all hands on deck when there were multiple incidents happening in the hospital district.

Currently I could apply for a clinical position in the local hospital; a six-month stint at the Pharmacy Guild writing pharmacy assistant modules (which I have a long history of doing); work as a locum at Blackall, Alpha or the Gemfields; or a pharmacy lecturer position at several regional universities.

The world is my oyster and it feels damn good that I am finally being recognised for my worth.

As HMR referrals have all but ceased in my area with absolutely no support from the PHN for my business, it is time to take stock of what do I want to do next.

Do I want to solidify my role in one of the GP practices that I perform HMRs for and become their GP practice support pharmacist? Do I want to buy a Winnebago and perform locums in rural Australia? Should I apply for some of the amazing SHPA and APC roles that are being advertised to pharmacists?

Is your pharmacy world shrinking? Do you need some go-go juice in your veins? Have you thought about how your skills could be used as a return-to-work consultant on a mine site?

Pharmacists for far too long have restricted their vision within the four walls of a pharmacy or hospital. As many of us have shown in recent years there are so many other roles and opportunities.

Do not be afraid to take the leap of faith. Believe in your ability, sell your skills to the advertiser and expand your horizons.

The short-sightedness of those that think they hold our livelihood in their control can be repelled against. This is the best time to push the boundaries for expanding the places where a health professional with a pharmacy degree may earn a living.


Karalyn Huxhagen is a community pharmacist and was 2010 Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year. She has been named winner of the 2015 PSA Award for Quality Use of Medicines in Pain Management and is group facilitator of the Mackay Pain Support Group.

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  1. Jenny Gowan

    Great thoughts Karalyn! I presented a short talk at PSA16 on opportunities outside the square and got a lot of interest! Every day I do something different and our skills can be well utilised- take the opportunities as well as routine RMMRs, HMRs, sessional pharamcy work try writing, lecturing, marking, mentoring, to giving talks to nurses, podiatrists, dentists, physios, making U tube nurse education videos, medico-legal opinions, seminar talks to working with community health centres work with disease state management groups, PHNs, Community Helath centres, GP clinics, falls management groups , carers of people with disability as well as sitting on Boards, consulting to industry, staff training, IM platforms, and more… take the opportunities and use the great skills we as pharmacists have and be paid
    Jenny Gowan

  2. Cameron Walls

    I can’t help but think that the opinions expressed here are affected by bias. Both Karalyn and Jenny (in another comment) could be considered celebrity pharmacists. Surely you have more doors open to you than the average pharmacist?

    • Karalyn Huxhagen

      Hi Cameron. My comments are based on my general ‘inbox’ that includes SEEK, LinkedIn, Twitter, Locum Co and Facebook. I am an old pharmacist and well past celebrity status but I can tell you there are some great opportunities out there. Last night my inbox contained an urgent request to go to the Pilbarra. I wish I could have taken it. I also scan the Australian and various electronic newspapers and I can tell you there are opportunities out there. Rio Tinto recently asked me whether I thought a pharmacist had the skill set to be a ‘return to work’ coordinator. With some basic upskilling I said I would give it a shot if it was me.
      These offers are not directed at me or Jenny they are general offers that we see and consider. I would love to teach Pharmacy Practice. Just have to work on how to do this from afar!

      • Ted

        The fact that you are getting paid as a pharmacy writer, (very difficult work to get) shows you do not rely on working in a pharmacy for your income. Lucky you.

    • Jenny Gowan

      No Cameron – it is a matter of getting out from the four walls and looking and accepting opportunities. Start with your local community – the Maternal & Child Health centres, the kinder parents , the school, local sporting clubs, RSL , Probus and present informal talks. Be involved with your Primary Health Centre- then opportunities come. Take them – they are always a challenge but will increase your confidence and let you realise how much we have to over so many groups to contribute to optimum health. It does not start with being paid directly but that follows !
      Good luck! Open the doors!

      • Ray

        Do you have university / PSA / Guild tenure (set wage) to fall back on if the receivers of your free services do not decide to eventually pay for them, Jenny?

    • Drugby

      Cameron, everyone needs to start somewhere and sometime. You need to be willing to take some risks and work hard, often for no financial return. In my experience, you need to accept opportunities to talk to consumer groups and other health professionals to gain confidence and enhance your reputation. Social media is also a great way to enhance your reputation. I filled in 60 hours work time in the census last week, but at least 20 hours of that was unpaid work or preparing for future work, let alone the extra 10 hours or so I spend every week reading journals, Medscape, etc

      It’s not easy, but many pharmacists have the passion and vision to make it happen.

      If this is part of your preferred future, add to your personal learning plan and CPD plan, as a start.

      My word for the week is “grit”.

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