AJP chats with Alexandra Shepherd, Pharmacy Manager at Merredin Pharmacy in rural WA
1. Where did you graduate in pharmacy and what was your first ever role in the industry?
I graduated from Curtin University with the Graduate Entry Masters in Pharmacy. I started working in the industry the first year I started pharmacy because I thought it was a fantastic way to put into practice the information I was learning at uni. I was working as a pharmacy assistant primarily at the S2/S3 counter.
This was exactly where I wanted to be because I believe this is where we can have the biggest impact in helping improve someone’s health. Plus I love chatting to clients and hearing their stories.
2. You are currently managing a pharmacy in remote Australia, in which region do you work? What was the journey that brought you into this role/area?
I am currently the Managing Pharmacist in Merredin which is in the Wheatbelt in WA, about three hours directly inland from Perth. I have done a lot of work around Australia working in Victoria, NSW and WA. Across these areas I have been in both metro city pharmacies, country pharmacies and remote pharmacies.
The reason for working all around was to really broaden my scope of knowledge and understanding on how different businesses run. I also wanted to see how health changes across the Australian landscape and see what areas of health I was truly passionate about the most.
Towards the end of last year I started locuming in more rural and country areas and found this to be so much more rewarding. Mainly because the people in these places are really craving the help and knowledge that a pharmacist can provide. I feel I was having a bigger impact. This is what led me to taking on a full-time role managing a pharmacy in Merredin.
Out here I can really focus on improving not only the system but impacting individual lives of both the customers and the staff within the pharmacy. I now realise just how important my role is for this community – knowledge is key and providing this to the people can be very empowering for them.
3. What is unique about the area that you are currently working in? Is the patient demographic different to urban regions for example?
We have quite a diverse range of people in this area. The demographic does seem to lean more towards an older group of people. We have a large Aboriginal community out here. We also have a lot of farmers in this area.
4. Can you tell us more about the kinds of services do you offer in your pharmacy?
We try to stay quite broad as we are the only pharmacy in the town. The main services I specialise in as a pharmacist are gut health, mental health (I am a mental health first aider) and pain management.
We also service the hospital and the two nursing homes.
5. Where do you see yourself in 10 years – still in rural Australia or elsewhere? Are there any other types of roles you are interested in?
I will always have a soft spot for working rural and would love to help support businesses and pharmacists working in these areas.
In 10 years I see myself supporting pharmacists to really innovate and step out of their comfort zone. I would love to help improve the habits we have as pharmacists and the way we work and think so that we can be real change makers in the health industry without suffering with overwhelm and stress.
I would like to see more pharmacists taking care of themselves and their mental health.
I think we can unleash our true capability by achieving a good balance within ourselves and optimising our own wellbeing, allowing us to start thinking big and being innovative.
I would like to see more of us take an active role in being health coaches for our communities. With so much change going on, we need to really think about: what is it that only we can offer?
We are a unique profession in that we have an extended knowledge about all areas of health, we are well trusted and looked up to by the public, and we are easily accessible and in close connection with the public.
I think one big area we can play a more active role in is in supporting mental health sufferers. Numblessly handing out antidepressant scripts is not good enough.
There are three very simple questions we can ask that can make a really positive change for the patient. First: are you sleeping ok? Two: how are your energy levels during the day? Three: Are you managing to self soothe and control anxiety levels?
We have many supplements that can help support these areas of health and by simply showing you genuinely care about the patient will immediately give them some hope.
Let’s start stepping out from behind the dispensary and starting giving our care and advice because that you cannot buy online.
See all of our Staff Spotlight interview series here