Go rural, urges Ekka’s Miss Popular

Shana Edwards

The Ekka’s Miss Popular for 2016 is urging pharmacists to consider practising in rural and remote areas for the professional satisfaction and sense of community.

Only five years ago, Shana Edwards decided to take a professional leap and open a pharmacy in a small Queensland town that had never had its own pharmacy before: Alpha, which has a population of only 400.

This week, Edwards was named Miss Popular at the Royal Queensland Show after representing her area in the Miss Showgirl competition.

Eleven subchambers of the Show Society each send a finalist to the Ekka every year to compete.

“This award is a vote from the girls themselves, on who they thought was the best representative for them, so it’s a humbling award to win,” Edwards told the AJP today.

As part of the judging process, entrants were interviewed about issues that matter to them, and Edwards spoke about the need to entice health professionals, including other pharmacists, to rural and remote areas.

She says she is passionate about her community and her place within it as the sole pharmacist.

“I moved to Alpha in 2010 to open up the first ever pharmacy there,” Edwards, who is originally from Darwin, says. “They’d never had a pharmacy before, so it was such a great opportunity.

“Five years down the track we’ve had our ups and downs: two floods and a drought. It’s been a challenging but rewarding experience, and they’ve been the most welcoming and supportive community.

“The closest chemist to Alpha is 170km away one way – that’s in Emerald. So people are appreciative that we’re there, and it makes everything worthwhile!

“Out west, we don’t have the hustle and bustle of a city, but the professional service you can provide to the community is so beneficial to them, and the personal gains are so much.

“It’s challenging but rewarding, and the sense of job satisfaction I have is incredible.”

Edwards says that providing pharmacy services to a town of 400 and the surrounding districts is a busier job than might be expected: she is not only the sole pharmacist, but often the sole staff member, with assistants working on a casual basis.

This means doing admin work as well as dispensing, offering professional services, working with the local hospital to provide services for MPS patients and sending scripts out on the mail run twice a week.

She urged other pharmacists to consider leaving the city behind and become an integral part of a rural community.

“It’s surprising, it’s such a quiet little town in terms of population, but we can be really viable in small communities.

“We’ve been open five years, and there’s not a week goes by that someone doesn’t come into the pharmacy and say, ‘thank you for being here’,” Edwards told the AJP.

“It makes me so proud to be here, and other pharmacists deserve to have that feeling. It’s all about creating sustainable communities.”

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  1. Karalyn Huxhagen

    Being a rural pharmacist is so rewarding. The Alpha community are so grateful for Shana bringing stability to their community. It was an honour and a privilege to be the locum.

  2. Mimimomo

    Personally i think working in rural is great. People are more appreciative towards your service. Owing it would be rewarding and i think is the only way not to go bankrupt if you want to start a new business and having a loan. Working for owners probably not as good. You are just another sales person there. It is really hard to get leave especially 1 day leave when you need to go to the nearest city or town to do dentist check up or medical check up, even servicing you car. No sick leave provided and you are not rewarded for that. Life style is a big change if you are from the city (I am). Just my thoughts.

  3. Sharon

    Shana is right. Nothing can beat rural pharmacy for professional satisfaction. Over time you get to know people’s entire families and their extended family and friends when they come to visit. You help people through their crises and you share in happy times such as the birth of a new baby. You are doing something important and making a real difference. The lifestyle is so easy without commuting or parking hassles. Couple a better income with a lower cost of living and there are financial benefits too.

  4. BJ

    Personally rewarding – sure (if you like the bush life). Financially – I’m not so sure. Correct me if I’m wrong – but with a population of just 400 and those from neighbouring towns which practically all have a pharmacy – well that may just be enough to cover costs of ownership and a pharmacist’s annual wage after a few years of running at a loss? Unless you are charging full fare for everything I’m guessing. What is the minimum population to make a pharmacy financially viable in a rural area?
    From what I take from the article – only one pharmacist can be supported and no to little other staff. So unlikely many are going to be leaving major cities for this!

  5. Max

    This is the best the profession has to offer young pharmacists? A remote pharmacy which only supports a pharmacist and a part-time assistant? Fine if you love the bush, and are not financially ambitious… How many of the pharmacy big-wigs will trade in their life in a capital city, for this?

    • BJ

      The answer is something you’ve already alluded to. There just aren’t the numbers in more than one sense of the phrase!

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