Q&A: Erin Cooper

AJP caught up with the NAPSA president and recent graduate at the student congress in Newcastle this month

Erin Cooper has been president of the National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association (NAPSA) for six months now, having taken over from Jess Hsiao in July 2019.

She recently graduated from her Bachelor of Pharmacy at Charles Sturt University in Orange, NSW in December, and is now three weeks into her internship at Capital Chemist Wanniassa in Canberra.

Here we chat with her about how students are feeling about the profession, and her goals over the next year.

How are students feeling about the future of pharmacy?

I believe the mood is quite positive at the moment, especially compared to when I started. When I first started studying, I feel like there was this myth going around that there were no jobs in pharmacy, people asking me ‘why are you doing pharmacy?’

But I feel like that has changed a lot especially with the students. I think there is a lot more positive approach to the future we have as pharmacists – we have somewhere to go, and there’s no concern about jobs or future employment.

What has led to that positivity?

The fact that a lot of the organisations have got more involved with the students and early career pharmacists to create that – the early career pharmacists are a great demographic and they’re very passionate and they’re very encouraging with the students.

It’s really good to have created that group and it’s a way to get students more involved, and the students can see what the profession does, especially people who are very close in age, fresh out [of uni].

Having that involvement with the students has increased the positivity, they can see firsthand what they can achieve. You can see it doesn’t take you 20 years to get somewhere.

As for myself, I’ve always had a pretty positive outlook on pharmacy since the beginning. I don’t know if that’s coming from a regional area where I know there are lots of job opportunities, but I’ve had no lulls across the four years [of study]. And just starting my internship has sparked a bit more excitement – I’m really excited to continue and see where it takes me.

Erin Cooper in her Capital Chemist uniform
Erin has recently started her internship at Capital Chemist Wanniassa in Canberra.

What are you looking forward to in your internship?

Just a lot more hands-on experience, getting to apply everything we’ve learnt so far. I think where I am doing my internship is very professional services focused, so I’m very excited to learn about all those professional services and be able to offer them to our patients to improve their health. And getting to spend a lot of time with patients and speak with them about their issues.

Do you think your degree set you up well for your internship and career?

Speaking to everyone at all these events, no matter whether we get the same degree at the end – they’re all so different. I’ve been pretty lucky, I had a really practical, hands-on degree and especially had such small numbers, so it made it really nice and really personal as well.

What are currently the biggest topics and issues for students?

The biggest thing for students, from people I’ve spoken to, is that they’re very concerned with the future. In pharmacy it’s very topical at the moment with lots of organisations wanting to organise new services for pharmacy, introduction of prescribing etc… I think it’s just the unknown of what the future could be, and lobbying towards improving what we can do in the future and ensuring we can learn those skills now so that we have an easy transition into whatever the future may be.

There’s always a big trend towards hospital over community pharmacy, I think our NPSS results showed this year it has decreased, it’s evened out a little bit. I think a lot of the students are still concerned that they don’t get enough education and information regarding the different areas to go once they finish. Some students say they don’t get enough hospital education or understanding, so making sure they understand and can explore all their options and feel equipped to make a selection and not be forced down any path.

Erin is halfway through her presidency at NAPSA.

Has pharmacy ownership ever been something that’s interested you?

It can be something for me to consider in the future, but not anything I’ve thought about at the moment as I’ve just started my internship.

It’s been really helpful the last couple of years at Congress we’ve had some really good business information streams, so hearing from lots of young owners about how to achieve [that] is really good from a student perspective.

I think that has really encouraged lots of students who have attended Congress, and inspired them a bit more to own as they’ve been shown the way to go about it.

What are you enjoying most about being NAPSA president?

I really enjoyed being able to communicate with all the pharmacy associations quite closely, especially through the meetings and events I’ve attended. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot more about the entire pharmacy profession which has been really nice and just getting to help steer where our student association goes, to make sure we’re giving the most for our students and ensuring that NAPSA continues to help them in the future.

Are there any specific things on your agenda over the next six months?

At the moment we’re still looking at improving communication between all of our branches, and to try and work together to improve memberships as a whole as there was a bit of a lull in memberships and people wanting to get involved, which is picking up again. We’re hoping to improve that again, build our numbers, and helping all the branches do that – from the littlest to the biggest!

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