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Busting 4 myths about careers in pharmacy

Publish Date

3 December 2021

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Mythbusting in pharmacy

When you picture a career in pharmacy, what do you see? It might look like someone in a white coat standing behind a pharmacy store counter dispensing medication. This is just one part of the role of the pharmacist. Here are four corrections to common misunderstandings about a career in pharmacy.

Myth One: Pharmacists only work in chemists

In addition to working in community pharmacies (commonly referred to as chemists), pharmacists work in a range of exciting and diverse settings including but not limited to: hospitals, community, defence force, research, drug development, government departments, aged care, consultant pharmacy, community clinics and much more, including working in other fields such as law or journalism.

The pharmacist’s role is continuing to expand. There are further opportunities to go into special interest areas such as cancer care or diabetes.

“I love where my career has taken me. It was always a personal and professional goal for me to one day work not only in a hospital setting but to specialise in oncology. It is so rewarding to be here for our patients when they are going through such a tough time. At the end of the day, that’s why we do it.”

Tegan Stark, JCU Alumni and Pharmacy Team Leader at Icon Cancer Centre Mackay

Read Tegan's story.

Clinical Education Pharmacist Stevie Perks

Myth Two: Pharmacists don't interact with patients

Working with patients is a key role of a pharmacist. Pharmacists interact with their patients on a regular basis and provide advice on medications, disease management and disease prevention.

They also collaborate with broader healthcare teams, which include doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals. These professionals work together to provide the best outcomes for their patients.

“Some days I can be working on a ward so I'll have 20 or 30 patients to look after. I’ll see the patients who are being discharged, I’ll meet the newly admitted patients, and see their acute and chronic conditions, marrying up the medications with the problems to make sure the medicines are optimised. Most of my day is spent directly with the patient or communicating with doctors and nurses to make sure that we get the best patient outcomes. Very little of my day is spent dispensing medications."

Stevie Perks, JCU Alumni and Clinical Education Pharmacist at Townsville University Hospital

Read Stevie's story.

Community Pharmacist Claire Wade

Myth Three: Pharmacists spend their day dispensing medication

While dispensing medications is a critical service provided by a community pharmacist, there is a great deal of diversity in their role. In an average day, your community pharmacist will review patient medication information and compound medicines, which involves changing dosage forms or making medicines. They will provide health and medication advice to patients as well as counsel patients on how to manage their health. Community pharmacists also provide preventative and primary care, administer vaccinations and conduct health screening checks such as blood pressure tests.

“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 complementary and  accessible service offered by pharmacists, people may not know how to take treatments effectively, or they may delay addressing developing health conditions.”

JCU Alumni and Community Pharmacist Claire Wade

Read Claire's story.

Community Pharmacist Selina Taylor

Myth Four: Pharmacists aren't involved in the frontline of health care

At the frontline of health care, and being one of the most trusted and accessible healthcare practitioners in Australia, pharmacists play an important role in keeping our communities healthy. They are the go-to medication experts, frequently accessed to maximise health and recovery. They help people live happier, healthier lives by providing important medication, disease and health maintenance advice.

A career in pharmacy will give you the opportunity to make a positive difference to the health of people and communities.

“Every time you consult or discuss with the patient, their medicines, their health, or how just how they're feeling that day, you are making a connection with them that has measurable effects. Every day I would come home from work in the community pharmacy and feel as though I've made a difference in someone's life.”

Selina Taylor, JCU Alumni and Community Pharmacist

Read Selina's story.

“Pharmacists are on the front line and we service the community in many ways. People are able to get many of their health care needs met at their local pharmacy and this helps to reduce the burden on the health care system, which is especially important when we have extra pressures such as the Covid-19 outbreak. Retail pharmacy is an evolving industry; there are always more services getting added to what we can provide to people.”

Vince Pappalardo, JCU Alumni and Owner of Wholelife Pharmacy

Read Vince's story.

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