College of Medicine and Dentistry The many facets of pharmacy

The many facets of pharmacy

Tue, 17 Mar 2020

JCU Pharmacy graduate Kiralee Gross believes her chosen profession is suffering an image crisis, and has made it her mission to fix it.

“A lot of people think that pharmacists just stick a label on the box, but that's not the case at all,” said Kiralee.

“There’s just so many different avenues and opportunities available to pharmacists that not many people are aware of.”

“You could be a hospital pharmacist, specialising in certain medical conditions and working closely with the medical team. Or you could work in a GP clinic alongside the doctor or do home visits to patients for a primary health care clinic. Then there’s the manufacturing side to pharmacy and the safety and quality testing of medications.”

Kiralee feels fortunate that as a fresh graduate she was able to find a position that combined her interest in both hospital and community pharmacy. Based in Cairns, she divides her time equally between the Cairns Private Hospital pharmacy and Community Pharmacy, both operated by Ramsay Health Care.

“I really enjoy the hospital work and using my clinical knowledge. I get to look at patient charts, such as for people receiving chemotherapy, and then take that into account when preparing the medications.”

“I also love the community pharmacy aspect where I get to practise my over-the-counter and customer counselling skills. I worked as a community pharmacy assistant during my degree and always enjoyed the people-aspect of the job.”

Besides the variety of work that pharmacists can do, another reason to choose pharmacy as a career is the strong employability that JCU pharmacy graduates experience.

“From what I've heard from my student group, no one has had any troubles securing an internship after they graduated,” said Kiralee. “There definitely seems to be a demand for pharmacists in the region.”

Originally hailing from the remote community of Georgetown in Far North Queensland, Kiralee has a keen interest in rural pharmacy and undertook a variety of rural placements during her studies at JCU, particularly in her fourth and final year.

“Pharmacists in rural areas have such a broad role in health care, as compared to a pharmacist in a metro area,” she said.

“In Mt Isa I was placed with an aged care facility where I did some patient medical reviews. We also joined up with a primary health care service and did some home medication reviews.  We would go into a patient’s home and check to see if they were finding their medications easy to use or not and how they were managing in general.”

A visit to the Royal Flying Doctors Service and a fishing boat trip in the waters off Cape York also helped to make the rural placement experience particularly memorable.

“I really enjoyed going rural and I'm so glad I did it. You get a lot of one-on-one time with your preceptor pharmacist and you learn so much.”

Having a personalised learning experience with lots of practical hands-on training is a strong feature throughout the pharmacy course at JCU.

“We get a lot of practical experience. Not only from placements, but from having real patients come into JCU so we can practice our counselling skills. You also get to do workshops in dispensing and learn the computer programs used for that. Then there’s the elective option you can choose where you get to make products such as eye-drops, creams and gels.”

“Smaller class sizes also means we have more a personal learning experience. You get to know your lecturers. I felt so comfortable asking for help if I needed it and I feel like you probably don't get that at most other universities.”

An active JCU pharmacy student’s club provides lots of opportunities for students to get to know each other. Activities include an annual pharmacy ball as well as other social events throughout the year.

“Being a part of the student club opened up so many doors to meeting other students and having some fun. You get to know everyone really well.  We even called each other Pharmily.”

Kiralee’s advice for anyone thinking of a career in the health field is to consider pharmacy as an option.

“I really enjoyed chemistry at school and I love talking to people so I thought why not give pharmacy a go. It’s been so rewarding. Pharmacy is a really interesting degree that can take you many places.”

Find out more about where a career in pharmacy can take you at