The scope of a community pharmacist’s role continues to grow, offering plenty of diversity and opportunity. But what does the job actually entail and how do you know if it’s right for you? JCU graduate and Cairns-based community pharmacist, Claire Wade, shares what a typical day looks like for her and why it is such a rewarding career.
In the morning
1. Filling prescriptions and dispensing medication
I generally start my mornings filling the prescriptions given to patients by their doctor. As part of this, I may also spend some time putting together Webster-paks, which help ensure patients take the right dose of medication at the right time. Alongside this I will be completing the dosing of patients on programs such as opioid substitution. As a pharmacist, I can now offer patients access to prescription treatments, like medicinal cannabis, that they previously haven’t had access to. This includes patients with PTSD or anxiety or those undergoing cancer treatment.
2. Performing MedsChecks
Later in the morning, I might commence MedsChecks with patients. A MedsCheck is a review of a patients’ medication with the aim of enhancing the quality use of medicines. We do this by educating people about their medicines, identifying how their medicine may be affecting medical conditions and addressing any issues they may be having. Currently, I’m doing MedsChecks for patients in local nursing homes and in a correctional facility in the Tablelands.
In the afternoon
3. Vaccinations and tests
Around midday, particularly this time of year, I might have patients come in for their flu vaccinations or for blood pressure testing. Before the pandemic, we’d also do a lot of travel vaccinations. Pharmacists have also recently been brought on board to support the community’s access to COVID-19 vaccination and testing and this is something I will be providing at our pharmacy soon.
I’ll often do the compounding of medicines in the afternoon, formulating medicines is one of my favourite things about being a pharmacist. Through compounding, you can make products that aren’t commercially available. A doctor may ask us for a compounded treatment, so we source the raw materials and put the compound together based on our own formulas, guided by the pharmaceutical society guidelines. It allows us to offer patients a treatment they might not have access to otherwise. At the moment, we’re doing a lot of compounding in association with skin specialists here in Cairns. Here in the tropics, you do get a range of skin conditions, so this is a real hands-on element of our job that makes a difference to the community.
Throughout the day
5. Providing advice
Throughout the day, I’ll be offering advice and education to people who come into the pharmacy seeking guidance on treatment for a condition or on improving their general health. Particularly with chronic health conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, a simple conversation with the pharmacist about treatments and how to use them effectively can really make a big difference to the patients' outcomes and sense of control. It’s an important function of pharmacists here in Cairns, but I think it is even more so in remote areas where communities may have limited access to health services generally. Without this free, accessible advice offered by pharmacists, people may not know how to take treatments effectively, or they may delay addressing developing health conditions.
6. Building patient relationships
For a pharmacist in a regional area, I think it’s important to build a relationship with the community, and this is always a focus for me each day. Especially with our elderly customers, as many will only want to come to one pharmacy, so getting to know them is really important. I think that’s the benefit of being a pharmacist in a regional area, rather than a big city. Here, I have more time to really get to know people which enables me to have those more difficult conversations about their health where needed.
7. Supporting new initiatives
No two days are the same as a pharmacist, and you never know when something new might come along! The scope of a community pharmacist is continuing to expand, so it’s not uncommon for a new initiative to be introduced that requires our involvement. Currently, we’re doing a pilot program for urinary tract infections for women across particular age groups. This program enables them to access medicines more easily through a consultation with the pharmacist and a prescription.
8. Making a difference to the health of our communities
At the end of the day, I go home knowing I’ve made a difference to my community! As pharmacists, we’re often the first port of call for many people on health issues and for general health and wellbeing. The profession is constantly evolving as we seek to better serve our communities. It is a very rewarding career and I would certainly recommend it!