Striking a balance

Can we achieve equity and flexible working hours for both genders in pharmacy? SHPA attempts to get some answers

With International Women’s Day fast approaching on 8 March, the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) will be marking the day with a breakfast debate to be streamed online.

SHPA’s 2018 International Women’s Day Breakfast Debate entitled Priority or luxury? Flexible hours in clinical pharmacy practice will be hosted online, available for all members to watch on Thursday 8 March at 1.00pm AEDT (to register click here).

“Gender equity is a global economic and social imperative – but how can it be achieved in Australian hospital pharmacy?” asks the SHPA.

“Flexible work hours are a common solution, allowing both women and men to improve their work-life balance, but at what cost?

“At this inaugural event, members can make up their own minds.”

Chatting with Wendy Huynh

In preparation for the event, AJP spoke with one of the debate panellists Wendy Huynh, a clinical pharmacist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) in Sydney, NSW.

Wendy Huynh, Clinical Pharmacist
Wendy Huynh, clinical pharmacist and panellist for SHPA’s International Women’s Day Debate

Wendy has been a clinical pharmacist since completing her hospital internship in 2013 at RPAH and has remained there since.

1. Tell us more about your pharmacy career.

Working at RPAH has given me a multitude of opportunities including secondment to Concord General Repatriation Hospital and Balmain Hospital. Through my training, I’ve also been exposed to a variety of specialty practices including Neonatal Intensive Care, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Liver and Renal Transplant and Clinical Trials.

During my early career as a pharmacist, I have undergone postgraduate studies and was the Society of Hospital Pharmacists (SHPA) NSW Branch Education Coordinator for two years.

Last year, I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to be on the Scientific Committee for the SHPA 2017 Medicines Management Conference.

2. Why is work-life balance important to you?

Work-life balance is important because it gives healthcare professionals time to focus on other equally if not more important life aspects such as family, whether that be starting your own family or caring for a dependent family member, or other activities both personal and career related such research, post-graduate studies or health goals.

Work-life balance gives us the opportunity to recover and focus on ourselves.

As healthcare professionals, we often sacrifice our own time to improve patient safety without evaluating the burden and damage it can do for ourselves.

Flexible working hours would be a crucial step towards promoting healthier and happier lifestyles for individuals working in a high pressure, often stress-filled and under-resourced environment.

3. What is your own experience with flexible hours in your pharmacy career?

Currently, my role at RPAH is strictly Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm which sometimes involves overtime. That means everything else, including my work with SHPA is completed around my working hours. This has often been challenging especially when deadlines need to be met. However, preventable medication errors can happen anytime at any stage of the patient’s hospital stay.

Our patients are sick 24/7 and we know that having a pharmacist as an integral part of the time is crucial for optimal use of medication and overall patient safety.

Around the world, hospital pharmacy departments are changing to a 24-hour service and we’re seeing the benefits (improved facility workflows, better inter-departmental relationships, not just increased patient safety) from this service redesign.

Therefore, the discussion for the need for flexible working hours is important, especially if we want the role of pharmacists to remain viable in the fast-changing and evolving world of medicine.

4. Do you think there is a real chance to achieve gender equity in Australian hospital pharmacy? If so, how do you think this can be achieved?

I think a lot of work is being done towards gender equity in all industries across Australia. I think hospital pharmacy has achieved much in it time towards achieving gender equity.

The hot topic of flexible working hours affects all genders which is why the SHPA inaugural debate for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018 will be an important step towards highlighting a key issue that needs to be addressed, to ensure the role of hospital pharmacists remains a fundamental part of the patient’s medication management.

SHPA’s 2018 International Women’s Day Breakfast Debate entitled Priority or luxury? Flexible hours in clinical pharmacy practice will be hosted online, available for all members to watch on Thursday 8 March from 1pm to 2pm AEDT (to register click here).


  • Ms Sharon Goldsworthy, BPharm MClinPharm, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA
  • Rochelle Green, BPharm G.DipClinPharm, Senior Pharmacist Surgical and Centre for Clinical Trials in Rare Neurodevelopmental Disorders , Lady Cilento Hospital, QLD
  • Andrew Harding, B Pharm MPH, Senior Pharmacist, Emergency, Austin Hospital, VIC
  • Wendy Huynh, BPharm, Pharmacist Investigational Drug Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW
  • Duncan McKenzie, BPharm, Pharmacy Site Manager, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS
  • Olivia Rofe, BPharm, MPharm, Associate Director of Pharmacy Clinical Services, Eastern Health, VIC

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  1. Paul Sapardanis

    The trick is to get the patients to only request our services during the times we want to work

  2. United we stand

    So let me get this straight. They are struggling to commit to a 9-5 shift so we are offering them night shifts and late nights instead to overcome this issue! Good luck with that 😂😂😂 None of these pharmacists with family commitments will work a late night shift let alone a 6pm to 6am graveyard shift. And we all know how much work actually gets done when you work away from home. Your professional responsibilities are just as important as ur family ones. Stop trying to milk the system and work hard for what u earn. There are a lot of newly registered pharmacists desperately looking for a way into the hospital system. If you can’t make the commitment, move to community and let someone else take over your role. Period.

    • Notachemist

      In other professions such as nursing those with family responsibilities often commit to night shift and weekend work to avoid the income sapping cost of childcare. It can work very well with partners working at different times of the day so that one is always home with the children. Likewise those who are undertaking further study often find evening and weekend work very attractive. Overnight shifts will be 8 or 9 hours thus 10pm or 11pm to 7am or 8am – never 12 hour shifts (not safe in a high pressure environment). The nursing model of 3 x 8 hour shifts per day is how it will be done.

      • United we stand

        You may be right. But what happens in the community pharmacy is totally different.

        In late night pharmacies I’ve worked at which usually stay open till 10pm or even midnight, the one’s with a family commitment always want to finish at 3pm or latest 5pm. They refuse to work Saturdays because their children have sport commitments and asking them to work on Public holidays are completely out of question.

        Those that haven’t got a family yet end up doing all the night shifts and weekend work at unsociable hours and end up getting the same pay anyways.

        I highly doubt those failing to commit to a 9-5 job would volunteer for late nights or graveyard shifts. What will happen is they’ll have an excuse to do shorter shifts and leave by 3pm, making other employees incredibly stressed out and overworked.

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