‘I never thought my life would be this rewarding.’

USyd Dean of Pharmacy Professor Andrew McLachlan, Katelyn Ingram and NSW PSA President Peter Carroll.
University of Sydney Dean of Pharmacy Professor Andrew McLachlan, Katelyn Ingram and NSW PSA President Peter Carroll.

University of Sydney’s Pharmacy Student of the Year Katelyn Ingram is busy learning everything there is to know about the profession

Pharmacy student Katelyn Ingram has been chosen from among her peers to be recognised by the University of Sydney as their outstanding student of the year.

“I’m so lucky,” she tells AJP. “I work hard, and I love pharmacy and I’m passionate, but you never know what will happen. It’s amazing.”

Katelyn is also one of a select number of students that have been chosen out of the cohort to do an honours degree completed alongside the fourth year of study.

She says she’s become “obsessed” with her area of study, looking into medication regimen complexity in CKD patients.

“It keeps me very busy. It’s quite selective, so I’m also very lucky to be a part of that. I’ve actually become obsessed with [the topic], I love it, it’s really cool.”

Busy bee

Katelyn got her start in pharmacy working as an assistant in Caringbah Village Pharmacy at just 16 years old.

This year she is not only doing a pharmacy degree and honours but she is also working at three different pharmacy sites – one in community pharmacy and two in hospital pharmacy.

“Mum’s like ‘you’re doing too much’, and I’m like, ‘no, I must do more!’,” Katelyn tells AJP.

“I work with Caroline Diamantis at Balmain Community Pharmacy, and I’m at St Vincent’s Private Hospital and I’ve just started at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, so when I say I have no time I truly don’t!

“I know a lot of people my age, about to intern next year and young people see it as very – you can either be a hospital pharmacist or be a community pharmacist … and a lot of people who do hospital don’t like community, and the other way around.

“I think they are so different but I love different aspects. In community pharmacy I love that you get that ongoing management of people, you get chronic conditions, you get people coming in for years – you get to build a relationship with them and you’re their first point of contact.

“In hospital it’s more really acute [conditions], thinking on-the-spot – not that you don’t do that in community pharmacy – but it’s really in-and-out. You see someone, you’re dispensing and do these things, and the next minute you’re onto the next problem.

“It’s just really different – but there is room for all parts of pharmacy.”

She says what really makes a difference in pharmacy is putting in that extra effort to help the patient.

“I think anyone can stick a label on a box, but if you take that extra five minutes to just speak to people and figure out what their needs are, go that extra mile to help them, even just giving them a CMI or asking them what their symptoms are – which I think every pharmacist should be doing anyway – it’s a lot more rewarding because people really respond well to that.

“I’ve had so many moments where you have people come back and say, ‘thank you, you helped me so much’.

“Being in public service and being in pharmacy can be really hard because you’re constantly giving to people. But it’s very rewarding.

“I never thought my life would be this rewarding.”

Pharmacy students transitioning into work can take care of themselves by building a strong support network, says Katelyn.

“Having really good mentors in pharmacy [helps]. I’ve got Caroline, and my first boss – having good mentors that you can talk to.

“I’m also best friends with my uni friends. We all get together and, obviously not breaching confidentiality, we can talk about what you experienced today. When you’re with people who are similar minded and have been through these things before, I feel like you can offload and help each other.

“And as well I’m just lucky that I really, really love what I do. Even a bad day for me I feel blessed to be in pharmacy.

“I started pharmacy young, I developed a love for it. I wanted to be a pharmacist, but I didn’t think I was smart enough – and I had people say to me, ‘oh no, you can’t do pharmacy’. And then I did.

“It’s a big blessing to have done the thing that I thought I couldn’t do. And at the same time I’m helping people’s lives.”

Getting better

Katelyn believes the future looks positive for pharmacists, even though roles may be changing.

“I have seen a lot of changes happen already. Price disclosure, the discounters and all those things. They really did a lot of harm to the pharmacies I was working in at the time so that was pretty sad,” she says.

“But I think there’s a lot more positivity in pharmacy among early career pharmacists which I’ve noticed, and that’s great. With service-based pharmacy and pharmacists reclaiming that role as clinicians and people who have value as medical professionals, I think we’re only going to get stronger in that as a profession.

“There’s always going to be a bad part of any industry, there’s always going to be things that people don’t agree with, but I do think that it’s positive, it’s getting a lot better in that sense – people not just wanting a cheap medication but actually wanting a service. It’s getting a lot better.”

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