Written By MOUSAM BHAT

College

College of Medicine and Dentistry

8 July 2021

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James Cook University pharmacy student Mousam Bhat felt like part of the community on placement in Mount Isa. Mousam says his Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) degree has been a chance to learn from amazing people and build his confidence as a future pharmacist.

I chose JCU’s Bachelor of Pharmacy because I wanted to get away from the concrete jungles. Townsville is near one of the natural wonders of the world and JCU is highly placed among Australia’s universities. JCU has had the Pharmacy program for 20 years and expose its students to a wide variety of clinical scenarios through placements.

The degree has given me the opportunity to meet amazing people, without whom I would have struggled to grow as an aspiring pharmacist and a person. A highlight has been the frequency of clinical placements. The course makes sure we get enough exposure to the actual profession through shadowing pharmacists. This not only allows for application of learned knowledge, it also gives us an idea of whether pharmacy is for us or not.

Pharmacist at counter
Two men smiling in outback Australia
Two pharmacists smiling in shop
Clockwise from left: JCU Pharmacy student Mousam Bhat on placement in Mount Isa, hiking with supervisor Mali and in the pharmacy with Mali.

Amazing small-town experience

I am from Mumbai and have always lived in big cities – ­buildings, traffic, and people always busy, the fast life as they say. I wanted a change, to experience the life in the rural/remote areas but was not sure if I would be able to adapt. My placements at Mount Isa, both at the hospital and in the community, have been a treasure chest of experience and knowledge. The small-town experience was amazing and immersive to the point that it feels you really fit in. There is more nature, less traffic and people were very approachable.

Within my two placements I was very lucky to have the opportunity to experience four different locations. During the hospital placement I was able to experience inter-professional interaction and communication. With the travel health pharmacy, I had a one-day visit to a Camooweal, a town near Mount Isa. The opportunity to shadow experienced pharmacists who are specialised in areas of medical, renal/hepatic, oncology and travel health gave me exposure to a diverse range of cases and patients with a range of medical conditions, which made it very interesting and informative.

The community placement was different to any city pharmacy. The pharmacy was closely working with Gidgee Healing, a primary health care provider helping the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community with free consultations, medicines and wound management. In the absence of public transport, it was essential to have delivery or patient pick-up/drop services in place to make health care more accessible. The pharmacy had to also predict what medication would be needed in future as orders were not timely due to COVID-19, with wait times over two months.

Awe in the outback

During downtime I would go to the Mount Isa lookout, about an hour’s jog. The view from the top is breathtaking. On one side is Mother Nature in her glory, mountains and trees as far as the eye can see; on the other side is the iconic chimney of Mount Isa pumping smoke, with the city at its foot.

I also hiked to the top of the Telstra towers with the pharmacy staff as a bonding experience that made me feel part of the team. All activities were done within the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines of course! On the way back to Townsville, a colleague and I stopped to take pictures of an abandoned uranium mining operation, Mary Kathleen. It was sight to behold.

My Mount Isa placement was a very enriching experience that gave a massive boost to my confidence as a student. I found that most patients/consumers appreciated my advice and help. I really enjoyed my placement and am seriously considering completing my graduation through rural placements. I really felt like I was a part of the community and, working with a close-knit group of health professionals, I also felt a part of the team, making a real difference in people’s lives.

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