Publish Date

13 September 2022

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Every day on placement brings a chance to grow

Having secured an internship in 2023 at the Townsville University Hospital, Kathryn Tidmas is keen to build on the rewarding research experiences of her JCU Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) degree.

Kathryn won the Honours category for the 2022 College of Medicine and Dentistry Three Minute Thesis with her explanation on balancing the use of the anti-psychotic medication quetiapine for delirium in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients.

“My Honours project is investigating the use of quetiapine for ICU delirium, but more importantly, the prescribing practices surrounding its continuation at discharge from the ICU at the Townsville University Hospital (TUH),” says Kathryn, who graduates in December.

“I have already presented my findings to the prescribers within the TUH ICU and received their valuable feedback. I am hoping the project will highlight how health professionals can best manage the weaning of quetiapine on the general wards. I’ve really enjoyed undertaking my research honours project over the last 18 months, and research within the hospital setting is something I am very much excited to get more involved in during my career.”

two women with World Pharmacist Day 2021 cake
Young woman holding plate of brownies
Left: Kathryn on placement at Livelife Day and Night Chemist, Airlie Beach, with her preceptor, Jayme, a JCU graduate, on World Pharmacy Day 2021. Right: Kathryn on her last day at Marlin Coast Amcal Chemist in Cairns with brownies her preceptor made as a thank you gift.

UK-born Kathryn has lived in Australia since the age of three, and her family has called Townsville home for the past eight years. Travelling with her family, she’s seen most of the country and lived in Melbourne and Sydney.

Kathryn had an affinity for chemistry and biology at high school and wanted to pursue a career in health. JCU’s pharmacy degree meant she could stay close to family: “The degree is also ranked one of the best by its students in terms of student support and placement opportunities. The small class sizes enable you to have a relationship with your peers and one-on-one support by the lecturers.”

She is looking forward to continuing to develop her clinical knowledge and gain invaluable experience within the TUH pharmacy department.  “I hope to eventually use this knowledge to travel to communities which lack easy access to primary care,” she says. “I would love to work within a multi-disciplinary team to provide medication information to these patients who may otherwise not receive it."

JCU College of Medicine and Dentistry Three Minute Thesis winners Swapna Chaudhary (PhD) and Kathryn Tidmas (Honours).

Kathryn tells us more about her JCU Pharmacy experience:

Best thing about studying pharmacy at JCU ….

Honestly, the people. Being in small class sizes, all the students in pharmacy know one another and encourage each other to excel. All the lecturers know you by name and want you to succeed. I don’t think I would have enjoyed my learning experience as much as I have at JCU if I didn’t have the amazing support around me.

Favourite placement experiences …

JCU Pharmacy offers 600 hours of professional placement within the degree, which is a lot in comparison to other universities in the country. I still have one more placement block to go, but my previous placements have seen me in a compounding pharmacy in Townsville, a community pharmacy in Cairns specialising in sleep apnoea and diabetes management among other conditions, down in Mackay and Airlie Beach and even at the Mater hospital in Brisbane. These placement opportunities have been integral to my learning. On campus we have also engaged in dispensing, counselling, and compounding practicals, which has also helped to shape and develop my knowledge in pharmacy practice.

I went to Airlie Beach last year for a couple of weeks. This was a great experience as the staff were so helpful and it was interesting to witness the way pharmacists are utilised as first points of health care by tourists. It can take up to three weeks to get into see a GP in this area and for tourists passing through, the wait was not practical, so there were some very interesting presentations to the community pharmacy. I was able to problem-solve and escalate concerns as appropriate.

This year I was placed at the Mackay Base Hospital, which was a great opportunity to experience hospital pharmacy practice in a regional area. I participated in the National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey and worked with the antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) pharmacist and infectious diseases consultant on the prescribing practices surrounding antimicrobial use in the hospital. I was then able to present my findings to the pharmacy department and engage in optimising the appropriate use of antimicrobials within the hospital setting. On the wards, I engaged with patients to collect medication histories as well as perform chart reviews and counselling of medications upon discharge.

I also travelled to the Carlyle Community Health Centre to help in an educational talk to rehabilitation patients on how new medications might increase their risk of recurrent falls. I had the opportunity to travel to the Sarina Hospital, a rural hospital with only 10 beds. I was able to see new patients who were admitted since the last time a pharmacist travelled out there and reconcile any medication-related problems on paper Medication Action Plans.

two female pharmacists
young woman wearing glasses
Left: Kathryn with her preceptor at Cairns' Marlin Coast Amcal Pharmacy, Gift, a JCU graduate. Right: Kathryn advice to new pharmacy students undertaking placement: "Take every opportunity and ask lots of questions."

In the downtime …

While placed at Airlie, I visited Whitehaven Beach on the weekend and enjoyed the atmosphere of Airlie Beach. During my time in Mackay, I was able to stay in JCU student accommodation with many of my fifth-year medical friends who have been doing their placements down there this year. We did a hike at Cape Hillsborough and visited Harbour Beach.

Golden piece of advice picked up on placement …

All patients have a varied level of health literacy, and it is an important part of a pharmacist’s job to ensure that patients understand what their prescribed medications are used for and any relevant information in a way that the patient will understand. It is so important to empower patients in their ability to treat themselves optimally and give them confidence in the administration of their medications.

Tips for a student preparing to go on placement …

Take every opportunity and ask lots of questions! Your preceptors are there to help and teach you. Placement really consolidates your learning and applies the clinical knowledge acquired in class. It is the place to learn and the pharmacy staff appreciate you being there. So, treat every day as a new chance to grow your knowledge, but also to make a difference in the healthcare of the patients you interact with.

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Where can a JCU Pharmacy degree take you?

Pharmacists make a positive difference to people's health and work in a range of diverse and rewarding settings including hospitals.

Discover JCU Pharmacy

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