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The Frontier Pharmacist

If you had 6 months to travel Australia, what do you think you might discover about pharmacy? About yourself? For me, achieving my BPharm was not a sentence to life behind a dispensary. Many early career pharmacists I know, or have spoken to, are looking for something more. I have enjoyed my six years as a pharmacist and I have never wanted to be anything else. What I do want, however, is to find my niche. So together with my family, I set off on a six-month Australian road trip. This adventure has given me a unique opportunity to locum, network, discover and blog (and have fun of course).

I wanted to share my discoveries and hopefully inspire my fellow pharmacists. I started a blog called ‘The Frontier Pharmacist’. The name came from a Peter Waterman article (2011) called ‘Pharmacist frontiers – unlocking career opportunities beyond the dispensary’. I found his words very inspiring. There is some negativity surrounding community pharmacy at the moment. There are talented pharmacists stepping out of the industry. Pharmacists who were once excited about their careers, are feeling disenchanted and worried about their future. Worried that there are too many of us. Worried about minimum wage and loss of penalty rates. But I think there is hope for pharmacists, with changing roles, growth and new opportunities. We all have a place in the industry, we just have to find it.

Just ask Steve from Bombala, a small country town in south-eastern NSW near the Snowy Mountains. I met Steve months ago by chance. I mentioned our upcoming road trip and he informally invited us to visit. It has been said to ‘seek, ask and network at every opportunity’. That’s what I did. While in the country, I discovered the perks of rural pharmacy. In a rural or remote area you will find that you are a well respected and appreciated member of the community. You will get paid more, and the cost of living is usually much less. There may also be more potential for ownership. If job satisfaction is what you are after, and you have considered working rural then go for it!

‘Seek, ask and network at every opportunity

Big city pharmacies offer something different again. While in Sydney, I visited Priceline Wynyard, a current finalist for Pharmacy of the Year (POTY) 2015. What made them stand out from the rest? Well, the staff were friendly and helpful, and Jason was the perfect “maitre d’” pharmacist, skipping the dispensary in favour of customer service. I was impressed by how this pharmacy researched their target market to provide services that would appeal to their customers, and set themselves apart from the competition. Jason was able to get involved with the business and marketing side of things also, improving his job satisfaction.

As I write this I am at the halfway mark of our adventure. We have set sail to Tasmania, where I have lined up locum work, and aim to share my experiences on the blog. Already I’ve learnt that if you are interested in an area you should embrace it. Take charge. Don’t be afraid to approach people and find out more. I hope that pharmacist owners continue to encourage their staff. A pharmacist who is enthusiastic and interested in their work is one that steps out from the dispensary and increases the profitability of the pharmacy. So don’t keep waiting for your career in pharmacy to get interesting. Discover your own frontier and see where it takes you.

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