Written By

Janine Lucas


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

8 October 2021

Related Study Areas

Assistant to pharmacist

Working as a pharmacy accounts clerk in her hometown of Cairns inspired Alexandra Bradshaw to take the leap towards a career as a pharmacist. She completed a Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) at James Cook University in 2020 and is loving the chance to make a difference in patients’ lives in her new profession. Alexandra shares her path to pharmacy:

After I completed high school in 2010, I worked as a receptionist for a garage door company in Cairns. I worked my way up to running the company and doing the accounts before joining the accounting side of Terry White Chemist in Cairns Central in 2014. The entire idea of pharmacy intrigued me. By the time I’d worked there for six months, I had fallen in love with the day-to-day throng of pharmacy, and I was interested in the wide variety of problems patients presented with. In 2015, I made the decision to move to Townsville and complete the Bachelor of Pharmacy degree.

Woman in front of Karumba sign
Group of six women in front of sign for Karumba pharmacy
Alexandra Bradshaw says her placement in Karumba during her JCU Pharmacy degree was irreplaceable.

Loving what you do

It took me about two years to really get my study style locked down. Organisation was my biggest asset. Finding a balance between my life, work, JCUPSA (JCU Pharmacy Students’ Association) involvement and university assisted me in feeling prepared for assessments. I was lucky to have found a passion for pharmacy that drove me through some hard times, so my biggest tip is to make sure it’s what you want to be doing. Work in pharmacy beforehand, understand it before committing, because it won’t always be easy and the passion for medications or helping people is what will help you push through.

My first rural and remote placement was with the Murtupuni Centre for Rural and Remote Health, where I was lucky enough to travel to both Mount Isa and Karumba. Both experiences were irreplaceable, and I learnt first-hand about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture of these communities, the limitations faced by the population and health care professionals, but also the benefits and lifestyle. I found the difficulties facing people in rural and remote locations couldn’t be totally understood without experiencing them in person. I completed my other rural placements at Atherton, Yeppoon and Bowen, where I found a great sense of community.

After graduating, I jumped straight into working full-time before moving to Brisbane to begin my intern year. I was honoured to be selected as JCU’s nominee for 2020 Graduate of the Year and was invited to attend the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s ATU conference on the Gold Coast. The opportunity to collaborate with influential pharmacists was an experience I would recommend to everyone. The endless opportunities for education and networking that started for me at JCU have really helped strengthen my career. I continue to learn from my colleagues and am excited as my journey has only just begun.

I have done more than 500 vaccinations throughout my intern year, both the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines to adults and children over 12 years. I've felt very lucky to be able to be a part of the solution to getting my community back to normal life and proud to be the first point of call for education for our patients. When I completed my immunisation training at university I didn’t fully understand the full impact of pharmacist immunisers. The nervousness quickly gave way to confidence after my first few vaccines and now I’m the main vaccinating pharmacist in the practice.

Pharmacist with patient
Pharmacist holding World Pharmacy Day sign
Alex with a patient during her university studies and (right) celebrating World Pharmacist Day during her intern year.

A world of difference

Having an open mind is a big part of dealing with people, especially in a community pharmacy setting. I find not judging a person by the few seconds or minutes I have with them will make all the difference in how I can help them. I have the firm belief that you can never truly know what is going on in a person’s life or day by the short interaction you have with them. You can always learn from everyone, whether it be a patient, a doctor or a colleague. It’s important to be able to portray information in a multitude of ways, whether to a health professional or a patient with limited health literacy.

I use a variety of skills in my job, from communicating with patients, doctors and colleagues to applying the knowledge gained from my time as a receptionist and account clerk in Cairns, my work within pharmacy as an assistant and dispensary technician, and my JCU education. Getting the chance to help a patient and making them realise that they do matter is more reward than I could ask for. Sometimes that’s about recommending new medications; sometimes it’s about simplifying patient medication profiles. It’s here that I use my skills to emphasise the best medicine choices for patients. All good pharmacists know there may be better ways to manage a condition. The pharmacist undertakes a critical analysis of a patient’s medicine regimens to maximise benefits, and minimise misuse, overuse and underuse. Focusing on these basic principles, I work to bridge the gap between non-drug treatment options and medication use, and encourage the multidisciplinary team and the patient to look at medicines as part of a broader treatment approach, not as a separate management plan. I love the idea that a simple piece of information that I can use as an education tool may make the world of difference to how a patient looks at their health.

Pharmacists make a difference to people's health every day, working in community, hospital and many other settings. Find out why a JCU Pharmacy degree will provide more career opportunities than you might expect.

Discover JCU Pharmacy

Did you know you can study Pharmacy at JCU in Townsville, Cairns or Mackay?