In the September issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants e-magazine, we spoke with the Receivables and Inventory Control Manager who was Wizard Pharmacy’s 2022 Team Member of the Year about her role and the pharmacy she works at in northern Perth, plus her career highlights, advice to other pharmacy assistants, and more.
In three words, how would you describe pharmacy assistants?
Helpful, compassionate, knowledgeable.
Tell us about your background, how you came to work in retail pharmacy, and your current position/role.
I started working in pharmacy when I was 17 at Wizard Pharmacy Morley [also in Perth’s north]. I worked as a junior register staff member, then worked my way up to assistant cosmetician, then became head cosmetician. After being in this role for a bit, I started to assist in OTC, completing my S2 and S3 training. I then began to assist in the dispensary and became the full-time dispensary assistant. After about a year of being the DA, an opportunity opened at Wizard Pharmacy Girrawheen, which allowed me to grow and mould the store and set up the dispensary my way. In the past year, I’ve transitioned to Receivables and Inventory Control Manager in a senior capacity, assisting the pharmacist/manager.
Tell us about the pharmacy, its services and the types of customers its typically attracts.
We aim to make Wizard Pharmacy Girrawheen as inviting and welcoming as possible for customers and staff. We all have a very good relationship with our community, and some customers feel like family now. The demographic is heavily Vietnamese and elderly. Our main services are medication packing, vaccinations, medical certificates, pharmacist consultations and medication reviews.
Describe your pharmacy team.
The team here is incredible. Generally, we have one floor team member, one pharmacist, one pharmacy intern, and me in receivables and inventory management. It all works so effortlessly. Not only do we all get along in a friendship capacity, but everyone’s very well-rounded, happily picking up tasks that aren’t necessarily in their job description – they do it for the good of the team. It’s essential that everyone’s a team player in pharmacy, and they’re there to support each other.
Within pharmacy, is there something that you specialise in or have a particular interest in?
Over the years, I’ve taken it upon myself to become very familiar with the NDSS products. This has been very rewarding for me and my relationship with our customers. We have many elderly customers who’ve been using a glucose monitor for years but may have never been shown how to use the machine properly or change their lancets properly, or they may simply need a refresher. It means a lot that I can support them on their health journey.
What have been some of the highlights in your career as a pharmacy assistant so far?
I’ve had many highlights in my career. The most prominent was making it as a WA finalist for the 2021 Australian Pharmacy Assistant of the Year. I’m also proud of my nominations in various awards categories over the years, winning the 2022 Wizard Pharmacy Team Member of the Year award. But my personal highlights would be the relationships I’ve formed with my customers. I feel like I have 40 nannas and 40 pops now! It’s very heart-warming.
What has been the most challenging part of working as a retail pharmacy assistant?
The most challenging part of being a pharmacy assistant is communicating the various rules and regulations to customers. There are many instances where they don’t understand the policies – an example would be certain scripts becoming private, depending on the number of repeats, etc. This is where it’s necessary to develop good relationships with your customers built on trust.
As a pharmacy assistant, what impact do you hope to have within your community?
The impact I hope to have in the community is to create a safe, comfortable space where customers aren’t afraid to ask questions or ask for help. For example, we have many elderly customers with no family or transport. We’ve created a space where they can feel comfortable asking for assistance, which can be hard for people who’ve always looked after themselves.
More broadly, what impact do you think pharmacy assistants have within the wider pharmacy industry?
I think pharmacy assistants impact the industry immensely. They’re the stepping stone foundation. Without them, it just doesn’t work. I often explain my role to friends and family that the pharmacist is Batman, and I’m Robin. They can do it alone, but we make it a lot easier.
How important is ongoing professional development for retail pharmacy assistants?
Ongoing development is so important, especially in this industry. It’s ever-changing and growing. We need to grow and adapt to it. COVID is a perfect example of how quickly things change and how we need to adapt in pharmacy. Our ability to learn new information quickly, and flexibility in adapting to new ways of working, saw our industry handle the COVID-19 pandemic amazingly.
How would you describe working as a retail pharmacy assistant to anyone new to or considering the profession?
Being a retail pharmacy assistant is a role where you get to learn about medicines and medical conditions, all while building life-long bonds with customers and helping people in need. It’s a highly rewarding career that I would definitely recommend to others.
What is your advice to other retail pharmacy assistants in terms of achieving career goals?
The best advice I can offer is to be open to trying everything. You may not make it all the way to the win, but you’ll always gain incredible life and professional experiences. Plus, the new knowledge gained makes any experience worth it.
Retail pharmacy (and the healthcare industry) has faced some serious challenges over the past few years. What has helped you and your team members get through these difficult times? What’s your advice on overcoming challenges?
Honestly, we’ve used humour to cope. The whole ‘laughter is the best medicine’ works best for us. We even created a wall at the back of our pharmacy full of jokes, memes and pictures, so when out the back on break, everyone can have a little giggle. We’ve also made a conscious effort to check on our team daily and just ask, ‘How are you doing?’, letting them know we’re here to listen and help and thank them for their work each day. We’re in this together and get through things together.
Where do you see the industry headed in the next few years?
I see the industry becoming much more automated and having a greater online presence. I’m sure this will provide greater accessibility to services and will streamline some workflows in the long run. I know times change, and we must grow and embrace these new technologies. Still, I think it’s important to keep personal contact and interaction with our customers open, especially for the elderly and those who may not find technology as accessible.