PSS: a rewarding roller coaster ride


Volunteering for the Pharmacist Support Service is like a roller coaster ride, but is often rewarding. A volunteer tells their story.

It has been over 40 years since I last visited Melbourne’s iconic amusement park, Luna Park. What I most remember from that visit was the Great Scenic Railway ride, a heritage listed 1 km wooden railway track that dips and rolls, hurls the sea breeze in your face and offers a breathtaking view of the spectacular St Kilda foreshore.

You may ask, what does this have to do with volunteering for the Pharmacists’ Support Service? Well, my volunteering experiences have confirmed my suspicions that ‘life is a roller coaster’.

Sebastian Cole puts it nicely when he says: “With peaks of joy and valleys of heartache, life is a roller coaster ride, the rise and fall of which defines our journey. It is both scary and exciting at the same time.” 

The PSS volunteer journey begins with a weekend of training to prepare volunteers for the peer support role. PSS attracts pharmacists with diverse cultural and professional backgrounds from all over the country, and the breadth of knowledge and experience amongst them is impressive.

What struck me most was that despite our differences, we shared a collective purpose and qualities, a caring nature and a desire to support our peers and the profession.

My first roller coaster moment came during suicide training. Even though we were conducting a role-play, when I asked the question, “Have you thought about suicide?” my stomach dropped and my heart began to race.

I was back on the Scenic Railway, plummeting towards the ocean. I came away from the weekend feeling a mixture of confidence, excitement and fear, and with the realisation that my response during training was exactly how it should be. That was to be alert and take notice, and to not underestimate or judge what is happening on the caller’s own roller coaster ride.

The PSS volunteer rides alongside the caller on their journey by providing a listening ear and a non-judgmental open mind. We want our callers to feel heard.

Whether I am listening to a caller talk about workplace relationships, stressful situations, or reflecting on how to have that difficult conversation with their preceptor or boss or patient, I am right there with the caller, holding on for dear life and fearing a derailment as they tell me about their losses, or waving my arms in the air, laughing and celebrating their wins with them.

Volunteers meet regularly with the PSS Executive Officer and a psychologist to debrief, share experiences and learn from each other. Calls to the service are anonymous and PSS volunteers take confidentiality and anonymity seriously.

Whilst our priority is to protect the caller’s privacy, it also allows the volunteers to discuss the issues raised in calls in a safe and comfortable space so that we can improve our ability to help those who call.

There is a willingness to listen respectfully to each other and a strong desire to become an even better volunteer, so we can provide callers with the best support possible. This is an important part of the volunteering experience, as PSS supports those who are providing support.

They say that volunteering is a selfless act of giving. Whilst volunteers give their time, energy, and compassion amongst other things, they also receive a gift that is rewarding beyond measure.

Each time I answer the PSS phone, I am reminded of the courage and faith it took the caller to contact PSS. And I am humbled and honored that they have asked me to join them on their roller coaster ride.

The ups and downs (some things I have learned – so far – on my roller coaster ride)

  • We all have the resources we need to reach our goals (sometimes they are hidden and we have to search to find them)
  • In order to learn and change, take action
  • There is no failure, only feedback
  • You are doing the best you can at the time
  • Understand that some things are out of our control and it may be best to find a way to let go

Go here to read the experiences of another PSS volunteer

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