Returning to study
When I moved back to Australia three years ago, I looked at all the universities and JCU had more of an emphasis on community pharmacy, which I really liked. I wanted to be a hands-on pharmacist working with people. I've always had a fascination with medicine, I just didn't want to be a nurse or a doctor. For me, understanding the pharmaceutical side of it was the way to go. Medicines and how they work fascinates me. I enjoy learning about different diseases and conditions and what medicine is used to treat them. But more than that, how that medicine works, what it does and why.
I had done some subjects towards a chemistry degree in the US and although I hadn’t studied since 2011, I didn't have to do a bridging course to study pharmacy at JCU. If I’d realised I had that option over the Christmas break before my first semester though, I would have seriously considered taking the introductory chemistry class. It takes a bit to readjust; it's not just simply jumping back in. You do have to work at it, you do have to get used to balancing life and study, and catch up on the things you don't remember because you're not fresh out of high school.
The JCU experience
I'm probably 25 to 30 years older than most of the students, but I don't ever feel old here. They make me feel young. I've had people to study with, people to hang out with. I've made friends and I see myself as just part of the group. At the same time, it pushes you out of your comfort zone a little.
The lecturers and support staff rock. They absolutely rock. I’ve had all this stuff going on in the background with serious illnesses in my extended family, and the support, the kindness, the check-ins to make sure you're okay, they've been amazing. They’ve opened all these doors to that kind of support you don't get in most places so that's been helpful. They care about you as a person. The staff are very responsive to feedback. They want to see you succeed, and they're more than willing to adjust and try new things. To have people who actually care about your education, I feel like I'll walk out of here with a better education because of that.
This year I've done two weeks at Kate's Chemist in Hyde Park. It was unreal. All of the pharmacists took me under their wing. I was dispensing by the end and getting to counsel patients and have those interactions, which was wonderful. Their feedback was really constructive which helps, too. I also spent four weeks in Mount Isa with the Murtupuni Centre for Rural and Remote Health. I highly recommend it. It’s a great opportunity to experience health care in a remote, rural setting.
Two weeks were spent in a local community pharmacy and two weeks were spent at the Mount Isa Hospital. I had the opportunity to travel to a remote area health clinic in Dajarra I was really impressed by the staff there. They do such an amazing job and have a great relationship with the members of their community. I found myself liking the idea of being an outreach pharmacist because I get to meet and support the work of amazing people. Then there were the amazing opportunities to travel around on the weekends and see a part of the country I had not experienced before. It is very beautiful.