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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