Difficulty getting staff is the biggest challenge facing pharmacists outside the major cities, an AJP poll has revealed
We asked rural, regional and remote pharmacists to tell us what their single biggest challenge was. And the top choice, coming in with 20% of the vote (42 votes) was, “Difficulty getting permanent/regular staff”.
Second was “No support when sick or needing time off,” (15% of the vote) and coming in at third place was, “Isolation: have left my support network to go rural” (13%).
In fourth place, with 12% of the vote, was “Work/family life balance”.
Lucy Walker, owner of the Lucy Walker Chemmart Goondiwindi in rural Queensland – which recently won the coveted title of Guild Pharmacy of the Year – says that she has used several strategies to avoid some of the challenges common to rural pharmacies.
She says that providing a pleasant place to work, and proactive steps taken in the community, have helped address the staffing issue.
“I purposely always try to get an intern, and interns sometimes stay on, which is great,” she says. “And we find some great local girls who we train up through the Guild training course, and keep pushing them into more interesting positions here, to keep them motivated.”
Last year during a stint in hospital, Ms Walker made use of the pharmacy emergency locum service, but says that the store was staffed by pharmacists anyway due to its policy of having three pharmacists on duty, including on the floor, at all times.
“The biggest challenge for me is getting to training, and so staying up to date,” she says. “Another is getting the opportunity to network with other pharmacists and share ideas. So I love going to conferences for that reason, and I do access the rural pharmacy scheme to get to conferences.”
As for isolation, Ms Walker says that when networking with other pharmacists, “I quite often say to people that when you go to a small town, you’ve got to get involved with everything.
“When I moved here, I’d get asked to something and I’d go. So I joined the choir, I started playing netball. I joined everything, and made some really good friends that way,” she says.
While rural pharmacy also has its challenges, it’s also important to remember just how rewarding it can be, Ms Walker says.
“I really enjoy the connections that I’ve made, and the feeling that what I’m doing is very worthwhile.
“When you’ve helped someone, you see how they go over years. People know you, they know your name, they say hello when you’re walking down the street. You’re acknowledged and you’re making a difference.”