What I’d like to see pharmacists do in 2016

Party blower

Pharmacists will need to keep on top of their own health as well as the health of their business in 2016, writes Samantha Kourtis

The last two years have been crazy for me. I won Pharmacy of the Year in 2014, and then the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Award for the ACT. As a result, my life has really been about my business since then – far too much so.

I see this in a lot of my colleagues, particularly those who own their own pharmacies: we spend so much time looking after our communities, and our staff, that we don’t look after ourselves.

I recently attended the ACT 2015 Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Awards, in my capacity as the 2014 winner. The winner for the ACT Social Enterprise Award stood up on stage and said that she’s just realised that if she can be successful in her business, why can’t she be successful in her own life as well?

This really resonated with me. She said that she started to apply the same metrics and measures that she used in her business to her life, working on her own wellbeing.

If you work on your own wellbeing, and you encourage resilience in yourself, you can cope with whatever is thrown your way, from a critical staff member calling in sick on a difficult day, to a customer not experiencing a great health outcome, to juggling the impact of PBS price reforms on your business. If you are resilient and are able to deal with the problem rationally and effectively, you can get through it.

Pharmacy is continually facing challenges, and the last few years have been exceptionally difficult for many of us. So it’s understandable. But I think pharmacists have a responsibility as health care professionals to be as physically and mentally well as we can.

As pharmacists, the buck stops with us when it comes to not just dispensing medicines, but ensuring their quality use and giving our patients the information they need to manage their own health and wellbeing. And we have a responsibility to take that on board.

In my 20-odd years in pharmacy, though, I haven’t met too many pharmacists who look after themselves properly!

New Year is a good time to think about this. Probably 90% of the country sits there on New Year’s Day and says to themselves, I’ll lose weight, or I’ll stop smoking, or I’ll try to manage my stress, or simply, This year I’ll get healthy. In our industry, I think we could be doing more to support each other in doing that ourselves.

Part of the problem may be our personality type. While we’re all individuals, I do think that in general, pharmacists are independent types – we see ourselves as strong, and we like to be in control. This goes for the women too!

So showing vulnerability isn’t easy for us, nor is admitting to ourselves, and to each other, that we need to take the time out to focus on caring for our own health, both physical and mental.

I’d love to see Australia’s pharmacists making a New Year’s Resolution to do just that.

Of course, 2016 will still be a time of challenge for community pharmacy; we’re still faced with issues like the optional $1 script copayment discount, and the continued impact of price disclosure, and their effects on our businesses. Resolutions about our businesses can also be a great way to start the New Year.

For me, 2015 was about putting the right people in the right place in my business – in terms of growing the business, this was based around efficiency and effectiveness.

My plan is that 2016 will be about the right people having the right conversations, and truly caring about the difference they’re making.

This is my New Year’s Resolution for my business, as is making a greater effort to take care of the wellbeing of my staff. I’ve come to realise, more and more, that when my staff are personally and professionally satisfied, and when their mental and emotional fitness is good, then my business sings.

Make sure you have a 2016 business plan to go alongside your plan to invest in your own health and wellbeing. Go into 2016 knowing where your business, or your career, needs to go, and what you need to do to get there.

Know the impact of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement on your business. Learn about the impact of the copayment discount, and the changes in wholesale trading terms which will be a massive blow to industry.

You can’t keep your head in the sand, whether it’s about your own health or that of your business. In 2016, decide what your goals are and how you’re going to attain them – and then go for it.


Samantha Kourtis’ pharmacy, Charnwood Capital Chemist, was the 2014 Pharmacy of the Year. Kourtis was also named ACT Telstra Businesswoman of the Year 2014.

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