We speak to women at all different stages in their pharmacy careers: where they’re at right now and what they hope to achieve in the future
I am currently in my third year of a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Tasmania.
From a young age I knew that I wanted to do something within the healthcare profession. I’ve always had a love of science and talking to people, and pharmacy seemed like the perfect combination between the two. Exposure to pharmacy during high school led me down this career path and I haven’t looked back since.
The only thing I can liken studying pharmacy to is a rollercoaster. It has its up and downs with long days and sleepless nights but at the end of the day, we’re undergoing vital learning and training to produce the highest quality pharmacists. The Tasmanian Association of Pharmacy Students (TAPS), of which I am the current President, offers numerous educational and social events for members. I believe that it is important for students to find the appropriate balance between studying and maintain a life outside of pharmacy as this degree can at times seem all-encompassing.
I am definitely feeling optimistic [about the future of pharmacy]. I believe that pharmacists are imperative in achieving the best health outcomes for the community and I am positive that with four years of training and an internship, I will be adequately prepared to be the best pharmacist that I can be.
I feel lucky to be studying at the University of Tasmania (UTAS); we have so much diversity within the teaching staff at UTAS, most of which do not work strictly in academia but delve into community and hospital pharmacy. It is very reassuring to be surrounded and mentored by individuals that are so passionate about patient health and the pharmacy profession; it is therefore difficult to not be optimistic about my future career.
It is my belief that an individual’s ability work effectively within a position is not defined by their gender, but their qualifications. I hope and would like to think that in the future potential employers will base their decisions on merit and not gender.
The number one thing I hope to achieve is to educate people on their medicines; we are the medication experts after all. Pharmacy is continually advancing, I would like to see myself grow with the profession; in all honesty I believe that the possibilities are endless. Pharmacy is a profession that has and will continue to advance and expand in years to come and I look forward to see where we are headed next.
Hospital pharmacist, New South Wales
I started working St George Hospital (Kogarah, NSW) at the beginning of last year and did my internship here as well, but I spent a year working in Cairns in between. I’m a rotational ward pharmacist in the respiratory ward. My duties include reviewing clinical medicine charts and doing clinical medication reviews; there’s a lot of teamwork, I liaise with doctors, specialists as well as patients and their families. It’s good in that you get a face-to-face experience.
I’m also involved in a lot of education and have done some clinical trials work. The other thing I’ve been involved with is the antimicrobial stewardship program, so for example going around the ward and checking whether antibiotics have been prescribed properly.
I really feel that pharmacists are severely under-recognised. Pharmacists can be seen as simply suppliers of medications, whereas we’re a key part of the healthcare team and we’re so accessible as well. I think that misconception needs to be addressed. There are so many services that pharmacy provides that aren’t recognised and remunerated.
When you start studying pharmacy, you notice of course that it is female dominated. I think this is probably the case because you can get a good work-life balance. But I noticed when working in community pharmacy, there were more men in ownership and leadership positions and an underrepresentation of women. In hospital pharmacy I haven’t seen the same discrepancy. Our hospital director and deputy are females. I’ve never viewed my gender as a barrier. I think women are just as competent and capable as men at work.
I think pharmacy is quite interesting because it can take you into many different areas. I like the clinical side of it, because I get to deal directly with patients. The industry is really dynamic. I’d like to specialise and be a mentor to young pharmacists, and see them grow to become fully fledged pharmacists.
Intern pharmacist, Queensland
I work at the Redland Bay Discount Drug Store as an intern pharmacist, where I started working in my third year of a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
I gave myself a challenge this year to implement a professional service, PainWISE – an evidence-based program developed by Joyce McSwann, which targets people living with persistent pain. The program offers informative workshops that are presented by a number of local health professionals and allows the individual to develop a long-term plan with their pharmacist, which assist in managing persistent pain sustainably.
Our first PainWISE group recently finished the program and the impact on their lives has been immediate. All members of the group have become informed consumers; they have developed care plans with their GP’s, understood the importance of “recruiting their health team” and setting realistic goals.
Implementing and running the program has been immensely rewarding. One of our patients came to our pharmacy severely undertreated and over-medicating their condition with over-the-counter medications. Since starting the program they have made exceptional changes: ceasing smoking and drinking alcohol; getting on the right medications without overuse; developing a care plan with their GP; and developing an exercise program with an exercise physiologist. In their feedback, they have said their “whole perspective has changed and feel like they have a new direction in life.”
I have also been able to establish a great relationship with one of our local GPs who I now have regular meetings with to discuss pain management plans. Establishing these networks and the PainWISE program has been a major highlight and made my intern year very enjoyable and dynamic.
It is an exciting time in pharmacy and I believe the industry is in a major state of change. These changes, whether good or bad, are forcing the industry to evolve and provide new opportunities for pharmacist to become key contributors to the health outcomes of Australians. We are the most accessible health professional and it just makes sense that pharmacies become “health hubs” for the local community. Pharmacists have extensive medical knowledge; we just need to step outside of that “dispensary box” and start making the change. I can say first hand that patient’s want these services and they are willing to pay for them.
Most people are resistant or hesitant to change. I don’t think the industry is currently evolving fast enough with our environment. I would like to shake up the industry and remodel the typical community pharmacy. It would be great to establish a “health hub” of allied health professionals that provides the tools for consumers to achieve their health goals. It’s great to see that in the near future, pharmacists will have a role in GP clinics and I think this will just be the start.
I would really like to continue facilitating and implementing professional programs. The connections you develop with your patients are extremely fulfilling especially when they have reached a goal or overcome an obstacle. It drives my passion for pharmacy and I’m looking forward to the future because the career opportunities in our industry are endless.
Pharmacy general manager, Western Australia
I graduated in 2005 from Curtin University of Technology and became registered Pharmacist in 2006. For close to three years I have been employed within the Pharmacy 777 Group. I started with them as Professional Services Manager before becoming General Manager earlier this year.
Asthma has always been an area of particular interest to me and I became a qualified Asthma Educator in 2012. Currently, I am also studying an Advanced Diploma of Naturopathy and Nutrition which I plan to complete in 2017.
My passion has always been to improve health outcomes of my patients within the community that I live in and work in, which I hope to have achieved over the last ten years of my pharmacy practice. Being part of a talented team comprised of individuals who are both passionate and committed to making positive changes to the pharmacy industry and healthcare is immensely satisfying.
With the primary responsibility for the implementation of our professional services, I have focused on pharmacist education and wider healthcare collaboration. It is truly rewarding to see how the combined effort of all health professionals involved in patient care can benefit a patient’s overall health and have a ripple effect on the wider local community. And now in my current role, I feel very strongly about encouraging others to reach their full potential, empowering them in their own leadership development.
It is inspiring to see the work of other like-minded pharmacists proactively involved in raising awareness for better disease state management and having greater community involvement. There are plenty of community pharmacists taking extra steps to support patients and I hope this is just the beginning of the great expanded role we can all play in health care.
As an industry, I feel pharmacy needs to place further emphasis on boosting the profile of pharmacists by developing their role, focusing on their clinical skills and professional networking capabilities. We all need to understand the importance of working as part of a wider healthcare network in providing complementary support to general practitioners and other healthcare providers – working in integration rather than isolation.
[Building a strong career] is about being passionate about what you do, but importantly, have the knowledge to back up the passion. Being ambitious and diligent while having a clear set of goals and plans for ongoing learning and development is what sets someone apart, not their gender.
Intern pharmacist, New South Wales
I work at a community pharmacy at Eastwood [in Sydney’s Northern Suburbs]. I have worked there for two years and I am currently an intern pharmacist at the pharmacy. I graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Sydney earlier this year.
I enjoy building rapport with the patients, listening and understanding their needs. Although it can be quite challenging when it comes to solving patient’s problems, it is a part of the learning process, helping to broaden my real-life experience before practising independently as a pharmacist in the future. It has also been a good opportunity for me to reach out to patients with different cultural backgrounds as our pharmacy provides a channel for them to seek advices in their own language.
Collaboration between patients, pharmacists and doctors is very effective in optimising patients’ health outcomes. I am grateful to see that most patients trust our recommendations on over-the-counter medications and listen to our professional advice. On the other hand, doctors also pay respect to our suggestions and are willing to discuss possible options to maximise the benefits of patients.
As an intern, I see pharmacy as a growing industry which is yet to cater for patients with diversified backgrounds. It will be exciting to see more pharmacists overcoming the language barriers between different ethnic groups, understanding their concerns and providing optimal patient-centred care. It is a gap that should be addressed as there are not many pharmacists reaching out to patients who speak other languages.
In my career as a pharmacist, I want to serve the community better by improving my pharmaceutical knowledge in breadth and depth and extend the knowledge to the local communities I serve. I am really excited to see myself growing to be an independent pharmacist who shoulders responsibility for the care of patients with diversified backgrounds in the next ten to twenty years. Although there are a lot of possibilities lying ahead in the next few years, I am prepared to take on any upcoming challenges.
Consultant pharmacist, South Australia
I see myself as a clinical pharmacist for general practice. I started off in hospital pharmacy for many years, and then I started doing education at the Drug and Therapeutics Information Service (DATIS). I’ve been with them for nearly 20 years now, although I’m on maternity leave at the moment.
More recently over the last two years I’ve been providing more direct general practice services as a general practice pharmacist. We have an open door policy. A new patient with complex medication needs might be referred to us, for example, it can be a different problem each time. I also do at-home medicine reviews.
A career highlight was being recognised as an Advanced Practice Pharmacist and as a Fellow of the PSA, and being given the opportunity to reflect and look forward through accreditation with the SHPA and as a consultant pharmacist. I’m also a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist (a US qualification).
Very early on, I loved my first real taste of being part of a team, working in haematology and oncology at Westmead Hospital in NSW. I was part of the medical team and really felt that I was able to make a contribution. That was 22 years ago now. The team was very respectful of each other.[Another highlight was] when I had the opportunity to introduce pharmacists and pharmacy services into the West Gippsland Hospital in Victoria. Now in South Australia working one-on-one with GPs has given me a real opportunity to influence outcomes for the patient.
Just now being on maternity leave and maintaining a certain level of activity has been a challenge. The beauty of what I’m able to do is that being a consultant clinical pharmacist provides a lot of flexibility and helps a lot with my family life. Maternity leave creates an opportunity to still be active. [Working in general practice] is a new area that I’m currently in and the GP has been very understanding. I’ve also had access to their electronic databases so I’ve been able to provide support remotely by doing some education and inquiries. I’m slowly returning back to work.
What I want to do further work on is seeing where pharmacists in the general practice team can go, linking up the general practice with community pharmacy and hospital pharmacy, as well as building and maintaining those relationships and networks. I’d like to see myself as an intermediary between tertiary and primary care. I think there is to a degree an intra-professional arrogance and a level of respect that can be improved upon. Until we can fully respect what we each contribute and our roles, we can’t move forward.