AJP chats with Gauri Godbole, Team Leader Pharmacist in aged care and mental health at Gosford Hospital, NSW
1. What made you first decide to become a pharmacist?
My pharmacy journey began overseas in India. I was looking for high school work experience when my mum suggested that I observe a local pharmacy practice for a week (mum knows the best!)
It was a fascinating introduction to pharmacy world, however back then in India pharmacy practice was more focused on retail and industrial pharmacy. It was in the second year of my Bachelor of Pharmacy that I got introduced to clinical pharmacy, when I attended an international pharmacy student’s conference – and my mind was blown away!
I became aware of the unique position that pharmacist holds in a team: as a link between a variety of healthcare professionals and the consumer. It was then I set a goal to become a clinical pharmacist.
2. How long have you been working in hospital pharmacy and what has been your journey so far?
I have now been practising as a hospital pharmacist for well over a decade – time flies! It has been an adventurous and gratifying journey so far.
After my undergraduate studies and a traineeship in the largest antibiotics manufacturing company in India, I decided to migrate to Australia to pursue a Master of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of South Australia.
I also simultaneously completed a Certificate III in Aged Care Nursing to enable me to work the allowed 20 hours per week as an aged care worker. It was then my interest in aged care grew. I could closely observe some really practical issues that adults over 65 could experience in community.
I had the privilege to learn from some very experienced clinical pharmacists at hospital placements during postgraduate studies. I began my pharmacy internship at one of the biggest hospitals in South Australia and could put theory into practice.
Looking back, getting an internship in hospital pharmacy was indeed a privilege and turning point. As it is with every student, internship year was intense but fulfilling!
At the beginning of my career, I was eager to gain as much experience as possible in a variety of hospital pharmacy specialities to understand basics and explore my interests. I began my journey in the geriatric medicine world from one of these clinical rotations and now it is my passion! To hone my knowledge in geriatric pharmacotherapy, I obtained certification in Geriatric Pharmacy Practice by Board of Pharmacy Specialities, USA.
Currently, I practice as a Team Leader Pharmacist in aged care and mental health with some highly skilled and motivated pharmacists!
Geriatric medicine, or in fact any pharmacy practice is all about ongoing learning and sharing. Along with clinical pharmacy practice, I absolutely enjoy my teaching commitments to undergraduate and postgraduate pharmacy students.
I am actively involved in the Speciality Practice Leadership committee in Geriatric medicine by Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, where I get to interact and work with some of the gurus in geriatric pharmacy practice in Australia!
On the Central Coast of New South Wales where I currently work, we are lucky to have a common platform where community and hospital pharmacists can learn and share ideas. It is a privilege to be able to facilitate learning activities there too.
We have recently begun to set out pathways into research with collaboration between our Pharmacy department and Newcastle University which is enriching for students and us as supervisors alike!
3. What are some key issues facing older patients at the moment in regards to medicines and pharmacy?
We all know that transitions of care are critical points with a high risk of medication errors, where appropriate and timely communication is the essential. A 2017 World Health Organisation report on medication safety has also emphasised that to avoid medication related harm at transition points, improving communication is vital.
In my opinion, this is one of the areas where we need to focus our attention on a local and a national level, to create standardised robust systems. E.g. interim medication administration charts when transferring clients to residential care facilities from hospital.
To provide superior care to our clients over 65 years of age, I believe that future pharmacists need to be equipped with at least entry-level knowledge of geriatric syndromes and holistic nature of geriatric medicine. I am aware that a few undergraduate pharmacy curriculums cover these topics encouraging a wider uptake from pharmacy schools across Australia.
4. Tell us about a project you are currently working on.
My team, along with our colleagues from Quality Use of Medicines Team in our department, are currently working on improving pharmacist communication and handover during transfers of care. The first part of the project would include private hospital pharmacists in this handover process. I am really excited to see some positive outcomes and learning points from this quality improvement initiative!
5. If you could give a piece of advice to young pharmacists/students who want to enter hospital pharmacy, what would that be?
Ask questions! There is merit in exploring solutions yourself first, but a good piece of advice from an experienced clinician or a mentor can open your minds and expand your horizons.
Also, don’t hesitate to practice in different specialities before choosing your niche. The variety of knowledge you gain from these rotations certainly enables you to find your passion, and I bet you would not regret it!