In the August issue, we spoke with the Gold Coast-based ‘Super Star’ pharmacy assistant about his role, the pharmacy he works at, his career highlights, his advice to other pharmacy assistants, and more.
How long have you been working in retail pharmacy? What’s your current position/role?
I’ve worked in retail pharmacy for 18 months. I’m a pharmacy assistant working full time.
Talk us through what a day in your working life would look like?
I start my day by getting my four children ready for school with the help of my wife. When my children have been dropped off at school, I drive to work. When I get there, I walk around the store briefly and write down in my diary any jobs that need attending for the day. During my shift, I have a few key responsibilities. These include, firstly, greeting customers as they enter our store and, secondly, serving at the registers, the customers who are paying for their medication and products.
In addition to this, I’m responsible for keeping track of products’ expiry dates in our store and ensuring that the current promotions reflect the stock on hand. I keep a log of each department and go through at least two during my shift. This enables me to be familiar with the stock on hand and also allows for stock rotation.
As pharmacy assistants, we’re also juggling daily demands, such as customer requests, putting stock away, and taking the time to learn more about the products that we stock. I’ve taken it on myself to learn at least one new thing each shift.
When I sign off, I’ll come home and have dinner with my family, put my children to sleep and spend time with my wife. I have a busy but a very fulfilling life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tell us about the pharmacy you work at. What services does your pharmacy offer your customers?
Hope Island 7 Day Amcal Chemist is situated in the heart of the Gold Coast. We’re a medium-sized pharmacy that has been growing during my tenure. Currently, we’re home to innovative state-of-the-art dispensing robots BD Rowa and myPak Solutions, for dispensing medications and processing Webster-paks, respectively.
Our pharmacy has many professional services that our pharmacists are able to perform. Some of these include vaccinations, sleep apnoea services, pain management, smoking cessation support, weight management and [health and wellbeing program] AIA Vitality, to name a few.
How did you come to work within the industry? What drew you towards a profession in retail pharmacy?
My journey as a pharmacy assistant has been fuelled by doing what is meaningful, not what is expedient. For me, this has resulted in the shift of a career change from high school teacher to the field of pharmacy. My decision to pursue a career in pharmacy was driven by a combination of personal passion, innate talents, and a thirst for wanting to contribute positively to society.
What have been some of the highlights of your career as a pharmacy assistant?
In the space of the past 18 months, I’ve completed a Certificate III in Community Pharmacy in under 12 months, been announced as the Glucojel Super Star [PATY subsidiary award] winner for Queensland in 2023, and as a South East [Queensland] regional finalist for the Bob Marshman Trainee of the Year award.
I’m currently in the process of competing for the national award for both. In addition to these awards, I’ve been provided with opportunities by my employer to undertake additional training, such as attending the exclusive Pharmacy Assistant National Conference 2022.
What has been the most challenging part of working as a retail pharmacy assistant?
I believe the most challenging part of working as a retail pharmacy assistant is communicating with other people. This is something I’m very passionate about, and I’ve taken the time to develop rapport with customers and colleagues alike.
Despite this, with the current cost of living crisis and the uncertainty around the future, pharmacy assistants can bear the brunt of customers’ emotional outrages.
The ability to calm down and de-escalate situations, and being trained in conflict resolution, are important aspects of our toolkits that we need to access more often than we’d like.
Is working in retail pharmacy something you think you’ll be doing in the long term?
I’m here to stay for the long term. I’ve found myself in a niche, and I truly know that I didn’t just choose pharmacy, but pharmacy chose me. Every single day that I’m at work, I’m grateful because I know that I’m making a difference to those around me, and this is what drives me to be the best version of myself. Hope can touch the hearts of so many, and sometimes it’s all people need.
How important is ongoing professional development for pharmacy assistants?
This is essential for pharmacy assistants as the world of medicine is constantly evolving. More knowledge means better customer health outcomes and more confidence and also provides the potential to open opportunities for career advancements, as it can assist in honing existing skills and learning new ones.
How would you describe working as a retail pharmacy assistant to anyone new or considering the profession?
It’s an incredibly rewarding career pathway that allows you to give back to the community and make lifelong friends, and it leads to many career opportunities in your chosen field. While it can be overwhelming at first, with the lack of product knowledge, I personally found that leaning on the support of colleagues, trainers and employers has allowed me to overcome this rather quickly, which in turn boosted my confidence and innate abilities.
What is your advice to other retail pharmacy assistants in terms of achieving career goals and stepping up within the industry?
Taking initiative and being proactive will be one of the best decisions that will shape the rest of your life. This will open the door to more career opportunities in your chosen field. In addition, you’ll become a master in your own practice.
Make sure you’re setting goals, both short and long-term. By establishing an accountability mirror, you can reflect on your daily progress and have a plan for the future. This will keep you on track and allow you to be the best version of yourself.
Take the leap and surround yourself with those who want the best for you. I tell myself that we can fail at what we don’t want, so we might as well take a chance at doing something we love.
Where do you see the industry headed in the next few years?
I believe that the dynamics of community pharmacy in the next few years in terms of customer traffic, professional services and the roles of pharmacy assistants and pharmacists will change in accordance with the proposed 60-day dispensing and the North Queensland Community Pharmacy Scope of Practice Pilot.
Initially, I suspect we’ll see an increase in the professional services offered in pharmacies. As a direct result, this will provide increased opportunities for pharmacists and pharmacy assistants to engage in additional tailored professional development.
As pharmacies adapt to a model centred around customer health outcomes and professional services, I suspect pharmacy assistants will play an integral role [as they learn] more about conditions and ailments.
If there was one thing you’d like to change and/or improve about the industry, what would it be?
I would love to be an advocate for the role of pharmacy assistants and their quest in knowledge acquisition. I believe that we need to get more people excited and motivated to be in the pharmacy field.
In the past 18 months, I’ve seen the pharmacy field lean into pharmacy services even more, so I’d love to be at the helm in supporting and encouraging all pharmacy assistants to get on board and undergo extensive professional development.
This is something I’m incredibly passionate about and would love to see happen.
This feature was originally published in the August issue of RPA magazine.