Rural pharmacy rules
Just how different are urban pharmacies compared to rural? Find out as Pharmacy student Daniella recaps her rural placement.
The Master of Pharmacy offers exciting opportunities for placement in community, hospital and even rural settings. I was able to attend various rural sites around Western Australia and NSW for placement, which diversified my clinical knowledge and allured me further into the profession.
While in WA, I visited the mining towns of Karratha, Port Hedland and Newman in the Pilbara region. Newman was the smallest with just 4,000 residents! It was surrounded by red dirt, iron ore, and was at least five hours from any major town. In Newman, I conversed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and assisted the pharmacist with preparing medications to be sent to small Aboriginal bush towns.
I visited the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) office with another local pharmacist, where I was told about the supplying of medications to the small bush towns. To overcome the language barrier between us, pictures were designed to direct medication taking, such as using a sunrise to indicate taking the medication in the morning and a moon for taking the medication at night.
The main demographic in Newman were young families who had at least one member working for the BHP mines. While in the pharmacy, I was able to speak to mothers about their birthing experience. They informed me that there was no maternity unit in town and they had to drive to the next town, Port Hedland, that is at least five hours away to deliver their baby and this usually happened a month before their due date.
The contrast to Sydney is astonishing – we take for granted the ample options for various healthcare services. Waiting periods for general practitioners in these small rural towns are long and not bulk billed, which showed me how much people relied on pharmacists for advice. It really made me think about the importance of being a pharmacist and knowing what you recommend is of the best standard for patients who rely on and trust our services.
It really made me think about the importance of being a pharmacist and knowing what you recommend is of the best standard for patients who rely on and trust our services.
I also attended placements in outer NSW: Murwillumbah, Lismore and Nimbin. In Nimbin, we were taught the importance of having a Needle Syringe Program to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C, HIV and other needle-transmitted illnesses. Sterile needles in these towns were handed out in pharmacies, upon request, and special bins were provided to dispose of used needles. Having a pharmacy as a central health hub that the public can access for all health needs is so important in situations like these.
In Lismore, I was able to help dose methadone for patients of addiction. It changed my perspective after being so close and being able to converse with them, instead of watching them from a distance. This emphasised the importance of not judging people that use drugs, especially as a healthcare professional.
Choosing to do placement in a rural setting has broadened my perspective of the people I may encounter while practising pharmacy in the future.
Overall, choosing to do placement in a rural setting has broadened my perspective of the people I may encounter while practising pharmacy in the future. It has also given me the invaluable skills and insight I need for to succeed within the pharmacy profession, and I am glad I chose the Masters of Pharmacy course at UTS!