SHPA members are progressive advocates for clinical excellence, passionate about patient care and committed to evidence-based practice. Here, we spend a minute with some of them, to learn about their lives across Australia and how their work in a variety of healthcare settings improves patient outcomes.
A minute with... Jane Booth
From work-experience watching cardiac stress testing to medicines information, social media and podcasts, Jane Booth’s pharmacy journey has been anything but linear.
‘I’ve had a random career progression and never imagined I would end up where I am when I started out as a rotational ward pharmacist.’
After spending her early career at Austin Health in surgical ward pharmacy and the Operating Suite and completing a Masters in Public Health, Jane’s career took an unexpected turn when a friend told her about an opportunity opening up in Medicines Information.
‘The role led to all sorts of new opportunities like social media, which wasn’t even around when I was at university, a role on the Medicines Management 2015 Organising Committee and of course, the birth of Purple Pen Podcast.’
After working on MM2015 together, Jane and SHPA’s Head of Pharmacy Futures, Dan Guidone, started the flagship fortnightly clinical pharmacy podcast.
‘When we started the podcast we had nothing to benchmark against and thought “if we get 300 followers that will be great” – now we have nearly 2000 and we’re blown away by the response.’
Starting a new role with the Formulary and Business Development Team at Monash Health after taking long-service leave has also led to new challenges and opportunities.
‘Moving to Monash has been a big change but I’m exercising my brain in new ways and using my medicines information skills to support decisions about specialist and emerging treatments for patients who often can’t have standard therapies.
Saying yes and seeing where she ends up has also led to her involvement in Medicines Management 2018.
'Being invited to speak about my professional journey at this year’s conference has given me a great opportunity to reflect on my career, the challenges I experienced in the early days and the strategies I’ve used to overcome them - having good support in pharmacy and your personal life is something I’ll be touching on as well as being prepared to not pick a lane or be locked in.’ try new things, even if they’re not forever.'
A new role wasn’t the only result of long-service leave – ‘I’m all about work-life balance, I started learning the cello so I squeeze in practice where I can, in between going for long runs and sharing good food with my friends and family’.
A chat with... Marisa
We caught up with Marisa at a busy cafe in Victoria, where she tells us how SHPA's CPD program supports her to consolidate her practice. A member since 2010, Marisa says SHPA's annual Medicines Management conference is a perfect example of education and networking combining to provide an annual career boost.
‘As my professional partner SHPA has enabled me to further my career, through CPD events and the opportunity to network with my colleagues, get more involved in research and also with access to ‘super’ pharmacists that can I can use as my role models and learn from.’
‘The Medicines Management conference is a great opportunity to present your research, at any stage of your career. I remember going to my very first medicines management conference as an attendee and thinking, wow this is so inspiring and amazing but also thinking, I can do this.’
A chat with... Brett
A member since 2016, Brett talks about how having SHPA as his professional partner has helped him navigate Residency and begin networking with peers and leaders nationwide within his specialty of Emergency Medicine, to drive his career forward.
‘Through the SHPA website there are online communities where people with speciality practice, you are able to communicate and share ideas and discuss the issues unique to their practice.
‘I find SHPA members to be highly engaged and motivated and passionate about their areas of practice… you know that you can always ask using the forums to get advice or to gain others experience, they are happy to share.'
A minute with... Grace Wong
For Grace Wong, leaving her home city was a shock but experiencing pharmacy around the world and seeing the disparities in healthcare helped ignite her passion and hone her skills.
‘After completing a Masters in Public Health I volunteered for Calcutta Rescue, a not-for-profit organisation based in West Bengal, India, where I reviewed medicines donations, supervised the intern pharmacist, and assisted the medicine team in delivering healthcare in the slum areas of Kolkata.
‘While a lot has improved in India over the past 20 years I was quite confronted by the pollution, and lack of proper disposal of medicines and the confronting reality of life and death you see around you every day.’
A labyrinthine pharmacy career well underway, which has taken her to the Northern Territory, Traralgon in regional Victoria, India and back to Melbourne, and comprising community, technician and hospital pharmacy as well as experience in home medication reviews, Grace felt inspired to launch Pharmacists for the Environment Australia(PEA) in 2016.
With a commitment to increasing awareness and encouraging the growth of environmentally sustainable solutions and initiatives in hospital and community pharmacy, Grace says it’s important for pharmacists to take a step back from the detailed work they do and understand the ripple effect the profession has on people and the planet.
Her keen interest in sustainability has seen Grace act as a ‘Green Champion’ for the Western Health Pharmacy Department, become involved in their Five-Year Sustainability Action Plan and take out the People’s Choice Award at the National Medicines Symposium 2018 for her poster ‘How Green is your Pharmacy?’
‘Our poster and abstract just got accepted into the 78th FIP World Congress in Glasgow in September and I’m really looking forward to being inspired by people from across the globe who are working in this space, and bringing new ideas back to Australia.’
While Grace has a full plate working as a pharmacist at Western Health, as an academic detailer for NPS MedicineWise, and on her charitable foundation, she says she always makes time to teach yoga.
‘I’ve been practising since 2009 when I was at Austin Health and it’s come full circle – I’ve really enjoyed deepening my knowledge around the esoteric underpinning of yoga and learning from two highly experienced yogic masters in their 70's’.
A chat with... Rita, SHPA's 5000th member
In a special video commemorating her unique position as SHPA’s 5000th member, Rita Skipper, Rotational Pharmacist at Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia explains how her journey to membership was an unorthodox one.
My interest was always in hospitals, but I started my career as a community pharmacist as I also had a passion for customers and clients and the communication that comes from healthcare in that setting.
‘After a while I really started to miss some of the research and education aspects, so I began the move back toward hospital pharmacy and I rejoined SHPA earlier this year.’
Rita, who begins in a new role as Clinical Pharmacist at HPS Pharmacies next week, says she is looking forward to driving her career forward through her SHPA membership.
‘I plan to make use of all the resources, join Specialty Practice streams and get to some of the clinically-focused face-to-face CPD seminars.
‘I’m amazed at how much SHPA has grown in terms of services provided since I was first a member in 2011, and I’m looking forward to learning from peers and leaders in the field.’
A minute with... Ruby Graham
Ruby Graham knew moving to Alice Springs to start an internship would take her out of her comfort zone, but she never anticipated how rewarding it would be.
‘On both a professional and personal level, the last five months at Alice Springs Hospital really have been a gift.’
In search of an adventure after studying, working in community pharmacy and completing a placement on the Sunshine Coast, Ruby secured both a regional internship and a place in the University of Queensland (UQ) Pharmacy Intern Training Program.
‘I decided to take a chance - moving to the outback was an adjustment at first, but the pharmacy team here have been very welcoming and UQ have provided support every step of the way.’
Ruby says the transition hasn’t been without it challenges – from severe disease states to language and health literacy barriers, her clinical and cultural understanding have been put to the test.
‘The first time I had to treat Norwegian scabies was really challenging because it was completely different to what I was used to, but thanks to the amazing insights and clinical knowledge of the health team it was an excellent learning experience.’
While Ruby misses her family and friends at home, she’s taking every opportunity to experience all the outback has to offer.
‘Every couple of weeks we’ll take a picnic to one of the watering holes nearby or I’ll climb up Mount Gillen and watch the sunset or rise over the beautiful orange desert and red rocks – there’s really nothing like it.’
A minute with... Chris Pointon
On his second trip down under Chris Pointon, co-founder of #hello my name is… shares how healthcare professionals are embracing he and his late wife Kate’s inspirational campaign.
‘Everyone working in healthcare, from pharmacists to doctors, nurses to hospital staff make a difference to patient’s lives every single day and it’s amazing to see Australians adopting these four simple words on such a large scale’, says Chris.
In Australia to reiterate the campaign message prior to his keynote address at World Hospital Congress 2018 in Brisbane this October, Chris says starting a therapeutic relationship with a simple introduction is the first step to getting patients to open up, even in countries where English isn’t a first language.
‘During an Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone healthcare professionals sent us pictures of the campaign logo handwritten onto t-shirts as they couldn’t verbally say the words hello my name is…because of infection control’.
Since Kate’s passing in 2016 Chris has taken the social media based campaign on the road, sharing the message and encouraging healthcare professionals to adopt it irrespective of culture or setting.
‘Change takes time and cultural difference come into play but there are a lot of people who actively support the campaign and we’ve had pictures of the smile logo taken in the cockpit of a plane, at the top of the tallest building, and even in Antarctica.’
Outside of the campaign trail, Chris aims to raise $750,000 for two UK-based cancer charities, is writing a book aimed at helping people supporting a terminally ill partner, and is speaking at events.
‘World Hospital Congress is going to be an amazing event and I really look forward to sharing my life story and inspiring people to make a difference in their lives and in the world.’
Find out more or share the campaign message on Twitter.
A minute with... Melita Jensen
As one of only three hospital pharmacists in Western Australia’s 155,000 square kilometre Wheatbelt region, Melita Jensen knows what ‘going the extra mile’ means.
‘While I’m a ward pharmacist based in a 35-bed hub hospital, I spend one day a week on the road covering 13 other sites as there’s no single location in the region with more than 10% of our population’.
Providing acute and aged patient care and monitoring pharmacy stocks across vast areas comes naturally to Melita, who grew up in WA’s sparsely populated Pilbara region.
‘Working in the country and being part of a close community has always been appealing to me, so when my husband Trevor suggested moving to a 25-acre property in the Wheatbelt to build a house and raise our family, it sounded ideal.’
After 15 years working as a retail pharmacist in Toodyay, Melita recognised that clinical input was the piece of the puzzle missing from her career.
‘Even though I’d done relief work in hospitals, I saw retail and hospital pharmacy as separate entities, so in 2006 I gained Home Medication Review accreditation to help with the transition’.
Melita continued on her journey toward hospital pharmacy by becoming a home medication review facilitator in 2008 and completing a Masters of Clinical Pharmacy in 2015 through distance education.
‘Studying online while I was working as a facilitator was a big advantage as I could travel up to 400km a day in my role, so there was no way I could attend a campus’.
Now her children have finished university, Melita spends her time working on their self-build home, training for half-marathons and enjoying the beautiful natural surrounds of the Avon Valley.
‘I love bushwalking the Bibbulmun Track but I also miss the solitude and peacefulness of outback Australia, so now my husband has a motorbike license we plan to explore more of the Wheatbelt and get off the beaten track’.
A minute with... Stuart Birnie
When Stuart Birnie booked a round-the-world trip jetting off from Glasgow, he never imagined he would end up settling in Australia and changing his career focus.
‘I’d already travelled through Africa and South East Asia and had every intention of continuing to New Zealand, Fiji and America but then I decided to make a go of it here and convert my Masters Degree in Pharmacy.’
With a strong background in community pharmacy and dogged determination, Stuart worked steadily through the process of becoming a qualified pharmacist in Australia.
‘Although I’d worked in community pharmacy since high school and was qualified in the United Kingdom, I had to fall back on my experience from my university days as a swimming teacher while I progressed through each stage of the registration process’.
It was while working at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre another serendipitous moment occurred.
‘About two years ago I began teaching the daughter of a pharmacist at the swim centre and this led to a job in his pharmacies in the suburbs of Parkdale and Narre Warren, before I branched out to pharmacies in Hawthorn and Chelsea.’
Picking up where he left off in community pharmacy was a natural fit at first, but Stuart says he began to yearn for a change and a short-term opening at Monash Health seemed like just the opportunity to expand his clinical knowledge.
‘I really enjoy my new role - the interprofessional contact with nurses and doctors and the being part of conversations that influence a patient’s health are making me a better pharmacist.’
While he loves the laid-back lifestyle in Australia and the friends he’s made, Stuart still has unfinished business.
‘I’m taking a chunk of holidays in August to head home to catch up with family and friends but, on the way, I’m going to finally finish the last leg of my round-the-world trip!’
A minute with... Susanne Weress
A natural curiosity, desire to learn and interest in other cultures led Susanne Weress to a career in hospital pharmacy.
‘When I started in pharmacy the bar on employing married women in the Commonwealth Public Service had just been abolished, so it was seen as ‘a good job for a woman’, but I saw opportunities to contribute to public healthcare and travel’.
So that’s exactly what Susanne did. After landing a Commonwealth scholarship to study a Bachelor of Pharmacy at The University of Sydney, Susanne finished her registration year at Prince of Wales Hospital and took off to work in London before returning to locum in rural New South Wales.
‘I worked in community pharmacy, raised two children, lived and worked in Singapore, and started a job-share at Royal North Shore Hospital in1989 - the first and longest of its kind in the Northern Sydney Health area – before being accredited as a consultant pharmacist in 1997,’ she says.
Susanne’s thirst for adventure couldn’t be quelled, her interest in Indigenous health led to locum work at Tennant Creek Hospital and a chance encounter with a doctor returning from Banda Aceh started a 10-year journey with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
‘Being part of MSF has given me the opportunity to work and project visit Kenya, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan, to sit on their Board, and advocate for the establishment of a peer support network in Australia for MSF field workers’.
Always on the lookout for a new adventure, Susanne carried out Home Medication Reviews in Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett, was an NPS MedicineWise Therapeutics Educator/Facilitator, and became an Accredited Tour Manager and Guide, and volunteer trainer for GetUp!
‘The thread of travel has been strong in my life and in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics I heard there would be a shortage of tour guides, so I picked up a TAFE Handbook and thought: why not do it?!’
Eighteen years later Susanne still works as a tour manager, contributes to her profession as a rural/remote locum and social causes, and prioritises time with her grandsons.
‘When I’m home I spend a day a week supporting my daughter Andrea and her baby boys, Oscar and Harley, developing my interest in meditation and yoga, as well as being a keen film-goer, and bushwalker.’
A commitment to practising what he preaches is driving Duncan McKenzie, as he prepares to debate for the ‘yes’ team at SHPA’s inaugural International Women’s Day Breakfast Debate in March.
‘My wife, Amy is a pharmacist who specialises in paediatrics, and we have two young children, so our family benefits from flexible working arrangements’.
As Royal Hobart Hospital Pharmacy Manager, Duncan oversees 100 staff across pharmacy, technician, administration and stores roles and he knows that flexibility isn’t just a key enabler and driver of good performance, but a necessity.
‘In Tasmania our staff are mostly home-grown, so we nurture them from internship - we offer flexibility and work-life balance to encourage staff retention because we can’t recruit experienced staff from another local tertiary hospital, we are the only one in town – and mainlanders rarely (but increasingly) migrate south!
‘There’s also been a national shift in the type of clinical work pharmacy departments undertake because of extended hours, shift work and seven-day services, so by its nature we need to be flexible, and at Royal Hobart we’re transitioning as we speak.’
While Duncan would love to fit more clinical work into his role, he feels there are stones left unturned in his management and leadership career.
‘This role keeps me on my toes and I’m proud that we’re moving forward in Tassie. Just recently we secured funding for expanded clinical pharmacy services, new pharmacy educator positions as well as SHPA residency positions, and we’re looking at expanding our ward technician service next.'
So how does Duncan make the most of flexibility in the workplace?
‘My focus is on spending my downtime with my family but I’m also a keen photographer and am passionate about open water swimming – I just try not to think about sharks!’
A minute with... Wendy Huynh
For Wendy Huynh, prioritising work-life balance is everything, which is why she's joining the 'yes' team at SHPA's inaugural International Women's Day Debate in March.
Wendy says she wants pharmacists to start talking about how teams can retain staff and skills, increase morale, beat stress and fatigue and improve patient care through flexible hours.
'Flexibility at work isn't just about starting a family or looking after loved ones, it's essential if you're going to develop your career, further your education or participate in extra curriculum activities with pharmacies governing bodies.
'It doesn't just happen organically either, which is why the International Women's Day Debate on flexible hours in clinical pharmacy practice is so important, to keep the conversation going.'
Wendy says making less sacrifices does not mean devaluing patient care.
'As healthcare professionals we tend to sacrifice our own time because we care about our patients, but we're working in a world where patients aren't nine to five - it's time to advocate for flexible working hours if we want our careers to remain viable.'
While she still considers herself an early-career pharmacist, Wendy is committed to building her clinical pharmacy skills through continuous professional development.
'At Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in New South Wales, I've been exposed to a lot of different fields but I'm particularly passionate about neonatal pharmacology in intensive care as it's a relatively new field that requires a lot of training'.
As a big believer in leaving work at work, Wendy knows Monday is always around the corner, so weekends are sacred.
'I may not go on adventures to far flung destinations as often as I'd like, but I'll always make sure I get out and enjoy the outdoors!'
A minute with... Diana Sandulache
Diana Sandulache fell in love with hospital pharmacy before she graduated but never imagined where it would take her.
‘My parents are physics and maths teachers, so science has always been a part of my life, but it was only after I undertook a placement at Royal Melbourne Hospital that I realised the impact I could have on patients as a hospital pharmacist.’
After graduating and working in a clinical pharmacy role at Royal Melbourne, Diana says she took a chance applying for a clinical education role supporting interns and students.
‘When I interviewed for the role I’d just joined SHPA’s Medicines Management 2015 Conference Committee and started participating in an education stream, so even though I didn’t have a lot of experience, I was able to answer all their questions and I got the job.’
With 15 residents now under her wing at Alfred Health, Diana feels confident managing an SHPA accredited Foundation Residency Program but wants to further empower the pharmacists supporting the program, especially as they move towards advanced practice.
‘I saw an email about the National Translational Research Collaborative 2017 Pfizer Young Pharmacist Grant and thought why not give it a go, I never imagined my proposal would be successful and I’d be lucky enough to go the United States to learn about supporting preceptors from some of pharmacy’s leading minds’.
Before setting off to the States this year Diana plans to spend some quality time brunching with her husband and relaxing with her cat, Rocky.
A minute with... Fawn Birch
Fawn Birch says a world of opportunities opened when she made the move to hospital pharmacy technician work.
After moving to Queensland and transitioning from community pharmacy to an assistant role at Gold Coast Hospital, Fawn says she received the training and encouragement she needed to become a pharmacy assistant manager supervising up to 20 technicians.
‘I love my job – working as a hospital pharmacy technician or assistant ticks a lot of boxes, you get to problem solve, be part of a team, have patient contact and drive your career forward in an integral part of healthcare.‘
Since leaving Gold Coast Hospital nearly four years ago to return to her home town of Wollongong in New South Wales, Fawn has continued pursuing a career in hospital pharmacy by working as an oncology technician, while developing, training and implementing a new ward-based inpatient liaison technician role that helps pharmacists take medication history.
‘I’m passionate about the growing role technicians and assistants play in hospital pharmacy and am really interested in SHPA’s Tech Role Redesign project as I’d like to see more structured career paths and a consistent framework across Australia - especially for new pharmacy technicians and assistants’.
Moving home has been an important step for Fawn.
‘Spending time with my two children, family, and friends is really important to me, especially in such a beautiful town.’
A minute with... Amanda Horiniak
Amanda Horiniak says she always wanted to join a profession that helps people – and she found it in hospital pharmacy.
‘This job is about more than medication, it’s about dealing with comorbidities, surgeries and other illnesses that you just aren't always exposed to in community pharmacy and I find that incredibly fulfilling.’
After finishing her internship and transferring to renal and endocrinology pharmacy, Amanda quickly decided that starting an SHPA-supported Residency Program at the Alfred Hospital would steer her career in the right direction.
‘The residency program has been brilliant – I’ve been well supported by mentors and educational staff, given opportunities to further my skills and knowledge, encouraged to attend seminars and conferences and, more importantly, audits and research projects.’
Amanda’s passion and dedication for continued improvement and her ability to turn any challenge into an opportunity saw her receive the inaugural SHPA Resident of the Year Award at Medicines Management 2017 a fortnight ago.
‘I’m really enjoyed learning the business aspects of pharmacy in my first rotation in dispensary management and am proud that I completed a four-month audit of medication orders in relation to patient demographics, and developed a dispensary orientation handbook for pharmacists which has been adopted by other sites.’
And the next step for Amanda, apart from indulging in some much-loved Melbourne brunches – ‘I’m passionate about pharmacy and clinical education and want to work towards advanced practice.’
A minute with...Glenn Valoppi
Glenn Valoppi entered hospital pharmacy as a 20-year old intern and hasn’t looked back since.
After spending 15 years in public hospital pharmacy, Glenn followed his specialty passion when making the leap to private practice in 2014.
‘I got into infectious diseases through general and transplant surgery and was really excited to be given the chance to move into antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) at a private not-for-profit hospital.’
As a dedicated AMS pharmacist fighting against the very real threat of antibiotic resistance, Glenn notes it’s been a challenging 12 months for pharmacists.
‘While we’ve been good stewards and our messages are gaining traction in the community, the lack of availability of antibiotics – particularly intravenous and recommended first-line antibiotics – has made it hard for doctors and pharmacists to make the right choices for their patients.’
Beyond working to fight antibiotic resistance and recommend modified therapies, Glenn also commits his time to the SHPA Victorian Branch Committee, and to his family.
‘After 10 years I’m retiring from the branch committee this year, but I am really proud of the work we’ve done and what we’ve achieved, particularly on intern allocations – I think we’ve created a fair program that gives students the best chance to start their hospital pharmacy journey.’
While he’ll miss inputting into the committee, Glenn hopes he’ll gain more time to spend with his family and even squeeze in a bike ride or two down Melbourne’s best bike trails.
Natalie Tasker can’t wait to catch up with old friends and make new ones at Medicines Management 2017.
As Conference Committee Chair Natalie’s excited about this year’s scientific program - but says she’s nervous about missing out with so much on offer.
‘Rahul Singal’s presentation on increasing productivity will be particularly interesting as I think it will challenge us to question why we’ve always done things a certain way and how we can dial back on aspects of our work.’
As a big believer in girl power, Natalie is eager to hear from Emma McBride, Federal Member for Dobell and a leader in the profession, as she recounts her story of leadership and advocacy.
‘I also think Ian Whyte’s presentation on medicines and murder will be thrilling, especially for anyone who is a CSI or forensics lover – I can’t wait to hear it.’
'With 15 streams, keynotes, workshops, contributed papers, and posters, there's so many opportunities be inspired to do more at this year's event.'
Despite a busy workload in medication safety and paediatrics – and squeezing in a trip to California to celebrate her first wedding anniversary! – Natalie’s contribution to SHPA won’t stop once MM2017 wraps up.
‘I’ve been elected to the SHPA Specialty Practice Leadership Committee for Paediatrics and Neonatology and look forward to working with a group of inspiring professionals to make our hospitals a safer and better place for children to receive treatment.’
A minute with... Rohan Elliott
Rohan Elliott loves the diversity of roles in hospital pharmacy
‘Over the years I’ve had a chance to work in so many areas, ranging from dispensary and manufacturing, to drug information and ward pharmacy, not to mention across education and research – boredom is never a factor!’
‘Being able to work in multidisciplinary teams, contribute to decisions about patients' drug therapy, and enhance the appropriateness and safety of patient care has always been a big attraction to me.’
Rohan says actively contributing to numerous initiatives within his area of expertise including SHPA's Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research and Specialty Practice program has opened up new opportunities.
‘Being a part of SHPA's Geriatric Medicine stream has given me a chance to network with and learn from like-minded colleagues, contribute to advocacy and education work, and develop resources for pharmacists working in geriatric medicine.’
When he's not working or volunteering his skills, Rohan loves spending time with his kids or in the outdoors.
'You'll usually find me at my kids' basketball, gymnastics, tennis, or other activities – but if I get the chance I'll catch some live music, or escape the city for a bush walk or camping trip.’
A minute with... Karen Chin
Karen Chin says interacting with patients is why she loves hospital pharmacy.
‘My first placement was in a hospital pharmacy, and I was attracted to the work after seeing pharmacists involved in both patient interaction and clinical pharmacy.’
After working part-time in community pharmacy while at university, Karen decided hospital pharmacy was a better fit for her and she jumped at the chance to do an internship at Frankston Hospital.
‘Working in a public hospital really suits me – I enjoy working in a large team and being supported by my colleagues as we work together to achieve the best patient care.’
Always on the lookout for a challenge, Karen was keen to become one of the first residents at Frankston Hospital to participate in the SHPA Residency Program.
‘I really wanted to challenge myself and I knew that being part of a formalised, structured residency program meant I would be rotated to many different clinical areas, particularly general medicine and specialties like oncology.’
Karen says living close to the hospital on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is a blessing, as she avoids long commutes to work and can immerse herself in her work.
‘At the same time, this is why on weekends I’m keen on heading into the city to catch up with friends over a good cup of coffee!’
A minute with... Shirley Liang
Shirley Liang applied for a pharmacy technician role to ‘give it a go’ – two years later, she’s hitting her stride.
'I had no idea how varied and important the work is behind-the-scenes for hospital pharmacy technicians, overseeing sterile and chemotherapy manufacturing and working on hospital wards, as well as dispensing and distributing medications.’
Shirley says the opportunity to help conduct clinical trials is the most exciting and rewarding aspect of her job.
‘Located in a major tertiary hospital, our pharmacy department supports many trials of new medicines and therapies, and I take part in reviewing protocols, drug ordering and receipting, dispensing and taking returns – it’s almost a “mini-pharmacy” in itself!
‘It is an exciting feeling seeing a drug pass beyond Phase 3/4 trials and onto the PBS and knowing that you played a small role ensuring it was safe and effective for patients to use.’
Looking into the future, Shirley says she is looking forward to the possibility of broader roles for hospital pharmacy technicians.
‘It was great to see SHPA’s white paper on expanded technician practice and I think rolling out standard qualifications and realising roles where technicians have more responsibility will help ensure pharmacy departments everywhere are stronger and more productive.’
For now though, Shirley says her weeks are busy and satisfying at Royal North Shore Hospital – and an ideal weekend sees her relaxing with a nice meal with family and friends.
‘To be honest, it doesn’t matter where, as long as family or friends are there!’
A minute with... Nallini McCleery
Nallini McCleery never imagined hospital pharmacy could be so diverse.
'It’s just different to what you envisage at university.'
‘Working in a public hospital, in particular is very busy, but it’s also incredibly fulfilling and supportive – there is so much on-the-job guidance around pharmacy and clinical roles.’
After migrating from South Africa after high school and graduating from university in 2001, Nallini completed an internship and began her career working in community pharmacy.
‘I only contemplated hospital pharmacy when I travelled to the UK, and ended up working within the NHS for 5 years.’
After returning to Australia and making the leap to Senior Clinical Educator at Gold Coast University Hospital and Health Service, Nallini accepted the challenge of applying for the SHPA Residency Program.
‘The paperwork was extensive but really valuable, as it helped my department understand that we were already fulfilling a number of the practical elements required by the program. The program, itself, would help formalise our process.
‘Structuring our program has been a balancing act – it has to work for the department but also engage the residents – and having support and guidance from SHPA has been crucial.’
Nallini says she really enjoys being a program leader but admits it takes a community to raise a resident.
‘We have 10 residents and I would recommend this program to any early career hospital pharmacist!’
‘Constantly learning and sharing information is integral , which is why I’ll be heading to the Residency Symposium next week.'
A minute with... Michele Cree
Like all hospital pharmacists, multitasking is in Michele Cree’s blood.
As Pharmacist Lead for Critical Care at Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital (LCCH), Michele and her team cover a 36-bed paediatric intensive care unit that manages patients with congenital heart disease, oncology diagnosis who may require extra-corporal life support and/or continuous renal replacement therapies and anaesthetics providing unique insight into the specific pharmacy needs of young people in Queensland.
In addition, the unit cares for paediatric emergencies, with 200 presentations a day, and a dedicated cardiac ward. Michele says this broad coverage has allowed the team to lead improvement measures in Queensland, particularly around standard medicine concentrations.
‘Since 2008 we’ve moved away from individualised concentrations based on patient weight, as we know from research and practice that standardising is safer and more reliable, not to mention more efficient.
‘Australia lags behind Canada and the United States in this regard – where standardisation is a mandatory requirement – so we are enthusiastic about partnering with other hospitals in Victoria to work towards a better, national approach, which may eventually also be adopted in New Zealand.’
Michele says other advances at LCCH have fuelled collaborative efforts to improve patient care, especially at Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Townsville and recently Mackay hospitals.
‘We were quite early in our adoption of a paperless workplace, in Paediatric ICU, for all our monitors and medicines administering, ordering and prescribing, so we have a long period to look back on and share learnings.
‘Our role as the main provider of paediatric hospital care in Queensland has also meant we can make valuable contributions to understanding pharmacists’ role in areas like advanced paediatric life support, and provide advice on how to better manage young people in adult hospital settings.
Michele says for improvements to have strong impact it is important to maintain connections and keep conversations active – such as through SHPA’s Specialty Practice.
‘The local and even statewide pharmacy scenes may be full of familiar faces, but it is fantastic to have nationwide streams to bring together diverse ideas and refine truly practice-defining advice and guidance on policy, education and advocacy.
‘Specialty Practice allows that and I’ll certainly be putting my hand up for a shot at Leadership Committees – not only to improve my own practice, but to see the advances we’ve made Queensland have an impact on the care of young people across the country.'
A minute with... Alex Kusiak
Alex Kusiak describes herself as a city girl, but a ‘why not?’ attitude took her from Melbourne to Broken Hill after her internship.
‘The move really allowed my career to take shape and it’s been a great experience working to build a reinvigorated clinical pharmacy service, doubling the size of our small team and shaping the department in a way that best serves the community.
‘I’ve also enjoyed working closely with very talented technicians, who handle a broad range of important activities here – this has spurred my strong support for ongoing research into expanding technician roles across the board.’
Alex says her pathway to hospital pharmacy was not always clear
‘I must say I was pretty naïve heading into my degree, I thought hospital pharmacy was all about supplying medicines to a ward! But once placements came around and I discovered there was so much more, I was hooked.
‘The direct interactions with patients, influencing medicines regimes and changes and really being part of the decision-making process is so rewarding.’
Alex says the move from the Southern capital to the Silver City has seen challenges as well as successes.
‘On one hand there is rapid pace, such as guiding junior doctors – on rotation from Sydney – through steep learning curves over three month placements.
‘Then on the other there is the usual difficulties and constraints of time and resources being in regional facility and servicing remote areas.
‘You gain an entirely new perspective of what “timely access” to medicines means when you’re serving Outback communities, and all of sudden complex stock management and much earlier discharge planning becomes part of your core skill set!’
As for her next move, Alex says the future isn’t quite as clear as it once was.
‘I do picture myself moving back to a bigger city and focusing my attention on a pharmacy discipline, so it’s fantastic to see SHPA’s Specialty Practice Streams up and running this year!
‘That said, I’m not in a rush just yet. Broken Hill has a wonderful sense of community, and I’ve made great friends throughout the relocated workforce of nurses, teachers and other young professionals.
‘That’s the biggest reason I’ve stayed out here for a few years, and why I may do so for a few more.’
A minute with... Kylee Hayward
Kylee Hayward has lived and breathed hospital pharmacy from both sides of the fence, on the ground in healthcare facilities in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia and, since 2013, as Lead Education Pharmacist at SHPA’s Federal Secretariat.
Kylee says the shifts in direction over her career can be traced back to a love of variety.
‘I always wanted to be a hospital pharmacist – my uncle was an anaesthetist, so from an early age I understood the challenges of hospital work.
‘This was certainly realised during my internship at a very progressive hospital in South Auckland, which served a population base with a high prevalence of complex and chronic diseases.’
After a stint in the UK (I was all over the place), in which she met her future husband at a Christmas party (among other things), Kylee settled in Australia and moved into clinical education before joining SHPA.
‘The step up from local level to a national view of healthcare is fascinating, and I feel lucky to be able to partner with members in every state and territory to help ensure every patient, Australia-wide, experiences the same excellent medicines management.
‘Ultimately my work is about the next generation and it’s a joy helping people develop as practitioners and spending time with people committed to helping other people grow.’
Above all, Kylee says interacting with SHPA members as they redefine pharmacy’s role in healthcare is the strongest source of inspiration and enjoyment in her work.
‘I love meeting members, getting to know them and what they’re doing – and not just the whizz bang stuff.
‘SHPA members are truly leading practice to influence change, and this doesn’t just build to a crescendo around conferences or publications, it happens day in and day out across the country.’
And as for her ideal Sunday, away from clinCATs, summits and CPD?
‘I’m sleeping in… and not taking my children to 7,000 activities!’
A minute with... Jeanie Misko
Jeanie Misko thought she’d made her mind up to skip hospital pharmacy in her student days.
‘I told the Chief Pharmacist on my fourth year rotation that I hated hospital pharmacy and that I’d never be interested.
‘They told me “come back when you change your mind” and, after two years in community pharmacy, I missed the clinical challenges of the hospital setting… so they were right… I did come back’.
Jeanie says having clear goals and making the most of opportunities throughout her career have begun to pay dividends.
‘I always wanted to work at Fiona Stanley Hospital so I was really excited when an opportunity arose. At the moment I’m enjoying my involvement with smart infusion pumps that reduce dosage errors through a “Guardrails” program.
‘In the future I’d like to specialise further and open up broader medicines information services to the wider community, and look at improving smart infusion pump technology across the state.’
Beyond her busy days poring over medicines information and the latest pharmacy research, Jeanie says you can find her in literature of a different kind.
‘I run a book review blog – samstillreading.wordpress.com – so on a day off I’ll often be reading, writing, or both, preferably in a park on one of Perth’s many, many sunny days.
‘It keeps me busy and also in touch with the local book scene – I’m @samstillreading on Twitter and Instagram if you’re interested!’
Although she’s now happily furthering her career as Senior Pharmacist for Medicines Information, Jeanie says it was a brief exchange with West Australian footy royalty that sparked her pharmacy journey.
‘I’m a huge West Coast Eagles supporter and when I was 15 I met John Worsfold, who is a pharmacist, and basically made the decision to emulate him then and there.
‘I even told him on the spot so we both went bright red, hopefully he doesn’t remember!’
A minute with... David Morton
An hour is all it took for David Morton to commit to entering the world of hospital pharmacy.
‘It’s still very vivid for me, in my third-year placement at the Austin Hospital I was thrown in the mix with some really highly motivated pharmacists running the student program and it just felt right.
‘I’d assumed I would end up in community pharmacy but the pace and the challenges of the hospital environment actually looked…fun.’
Following that moment, other turning points for David, who is currently the Director of Pharmacy at St John of God Bendigo Hospital, have been equally as spontaneous.
‘Five years ago I was a junior pharmacist in a team of 60 exceptional pharmacists. I wouldn’t have believed I’d be a hospital pharmacy manager today,’ he says.
‘My motto was, and still is, don’t predict too far in the future, enjoy what you’re doing at the time and if you do a good job opportunities will open up for you.’
Originally from Wangaratta, Victoria, David began his career at the Austin, then spent some time in Brisbane before his current role in Bendigo, a major centre in Victoria’s Goldfields region. He has thoroughly enjoyed all different settings.
‘What interests and drives me is in a city the size of Bendigo you can have a big impact on public health through influencing how pharmacy is managed, and this influence can have a wide-reaching impact on the community.’
‘For instance, we’ve completely changed our pharmacy provider model, setting a higher standard of clinical pharmacy services. This means country patients from central Victoria all the way up to the Murray, who access our service, can expect the same level of pharmaceutical care as metropolitan patients.
At the end of the day, David says his main motivation is found at home.
‘I’m a pretty new dad and my three-year-old and one-year-old keep me very busy.
‘My ideal Sunday usually involves a beer and the TV but these day’s it’s less likely to be the footy, and more likely to be ABC for Kids.’
A minute with... Emma Bartlett
For Emma Bartlett, variety is the crucial ingredient in her pharmacy career.
‘Integrating research and managing different roles in my everyday work really appeals to me,’ she says.
‘Hospital pharmacy – particularly in regional and remote area – is the perfect environment for staying on top of the latest developments in medicines management.’
In her fourth year of university, Emma was placed in Port Augusta, at the head of South Australia’s Spencer Gulf, which she says opened many doors for broadening her expertise and experience.
‘As a regional city servicing a huge area of remote communities, being in P.A. has allowed me to work with the Royal Flying Doctor Service on outreach to Outback towns.
‘This involves monthly trips to supply medications, educate local nursing staff, engage with fly in / fly out clinicians to review inpatients and discuss new therapeutic guidelines.’
Emma remains in Port Augusta today and has begun pharmacy research aimed at improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘One opportunity I truly enjoyed was working closely with Pika Wiya Health Service to collect information for my internship project “Learning From Aboriginal Experiences Of Infection Management In a Regional Hospital.”
‘An area of focus for the service is improving the supply of and compliance with medicines and, in my intern year, I conducted a project looking at patients that self-discharge to follow and understand what factors affect their medicines use at home.’
When she’s not working Emma, who was born and raised in Keith in South Australia’s south east, is usually in the great outdoors, making the most of desert state’s dramatic landscape.
‘All around Port Augusta there is spectacular scenery – my pick of the bunch is Devil’s Peak near Quorn, where a reasonably difficult hike is rewarded with incredible views.’
A minute with... Ashleigh Boatman
Ashleigh Boatman says it was seeing her education come alive that attracted her to hospital pharmacy.
‘At uni I loved learning all about bloods and disease processes and, in the hospital pharmacy setting, I could put this knowledge into practice much more easily.’
Hailing from Ararat in Victoria, today Ashleigh is the only oncology pharmacist on the wards at Dubbo Base Hospital, an environment that sees her closely integrated into multi-disciplinary teams at an exciting time for the region.
‘People travel to us from as far as Bourke and Cobar Lightning Ridge near the Queensland border, sometimes driving over four hours each way for one appointment, so we have great determination to improve access in the region, starting with a pilot RVAC (remote video assisted chemotherapy) clinic in Coonabarabran in April.
‘Serving such a large catchment area, we’re working to expand staff and clinical capacity with a 5-10 year goal that all patients can still receive pharmacy services outside Dubbo.’
After prepping for patient discharges and managing complex complementary cancer treatments, Ashleigh says she enjoys the lifestyle on the Western Plains.
‘Dubbo is a perfect fit – it’s large enough that it has everything I need, but small enough so there’s no congestion… I can always get a park!
‘It’s also incredibly easygoing. Lots of people are in the same situation as me, so it is very easy to meet people and make friends.’
Outside the working world, Ashleigh describes her ideal afternoon as in a sunny park reading a book under a tree, ‘although maybe not right now, because all I’m reading at the moment are my pharmacy journals!’