The career opportunities for young pharmacists


Three pharmacists share what they love about the profession and what they hope 2021 holds.

Sean Richardson MPS, newly registered locum pharmacist in South Australia

Sean Richardson MPS

What do you enjoy about being a locum so far?

The community immersion. I’m currently stationed in Coober Pedy, 846 km north of Adelaide, on my first locum assignment. When I came up here, I made it my mission to get involved in the community. I wanted to get involved in what the town was doing, and get to know the doctors, nursing staff and wider community. 

Working as a locum also suits my personality – I need a fast-paced, high-responsibility environment to thrive. 

I think pharmacy caters to a lot of different personality types and you need to discover the role that suits you best, whether that be in an interventional capacity or striving towards pharmacy ownership, etc.

How do you think the profession is growing and changing?

When I was a student, I networked a lot through the National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association and PSA, and I’m glad that I did.

Attending conferences gives you an insight into what the future holds for the profession. I saw (former) PSA president Shane Jackson speak several times and I really connected to what he envisioned for the profession.

PSA picks big goals that are supported by the Federal Minister for Health, and with every Community Pharmacy Agreement, we have new scopes of practice and further acknowledgement of what we do.

The projections in reports such as Pharmacists in 2023 are what we have to look forward to, and we’re slowly seeing these ideas get implemented.

What are you looking forward to this year? 

I think the role pharmacists have played in the response to COVID-19 has been overlooked, so  the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine will hopefully change that. There’s also the downscheduling of various medicines like triptans, which will broaden our role.

It’s important to have confidence in our industry leaders and trust the directions that they’re taking us in.

Samantha Pomeroy MPS, community pharmacist in Mulwala, South-Western New South Wales

What do you value about pharmacy as a profession?

The flexibility and options that it offers. You can work part-time or full-time across multiple pharmacies and you’re not locked into set hours. 

There’s a lot of variety and if one model isn’t the right fit there are other options. I’ve had experience working in discount and service driver models, or being the sole pharmacist in the practice or part of a team. Personally, I love working in the service model.

I enjoy the continuity of care, collaborating with GPs and other local specialists such as physiotherapists, podiatrists or optometrists, and delivering services such as vaccinations and home medicines reviews (HMRs).

What do you enjoy the most about being a pharmacist?

I went into pharmacy because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I find it really rewarding when a patient comes back to thank me for the advice I’ve given, such as suggesting a time of day to take a medicine when the GP hasn’t provided the specifics.

You tend to build up a client base as a community pharmacist and people start to value you as an accessible, first-line healthcare professional.

What are you looking forward to this year?

It will be really interesting to see the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially after the unprecedented levels of patients coming in for flu vaccinations last year. We’re getting a lot of questions about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments due to the increasing media coverage, so counselling concerned patients will likely be big on the agenda.

I plan to have the vaccine as soon as I can, so when a patient comes in with any concerns, I can turn around and say, ‘I had mine 3 weeks ago’.

What opportunities do you think the profession offers?

Besides delivering services such as vaccinations, HMRs and leave certificates, with a little extra training pharmacists can re-register as diabetes educators or sleep apnoea specialists. 

We’ve also seen our scope of practice increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, when doctors were mostly accessible via telehealth, by offering services such blood pressure checks and  blood glucose testing.

I think it’s really important for people to understand that community pharmacy is not one thing. Some pharmacies will compound medicines and others will offer vaccinations or specialise in sleep apnoea.

The good thing about pharmacy is that if you’re in a box and you don’t like that box, you can always look further.

Georgina Gaffney MPS, newly registered community and aged care pharmacist in Hobart, Tasmania

Georgina Gaffney MPS

What are you most looking forward to in your career?

That’s a tough one as I often feel like my experiences only scratch the surface of what’s

possible. But in the short-term at least, I’m most looking forward to consolidating and applying my knowledge, and learning from those around me. 2020 didn’t leave a lot of time for professional reflection, conferences or networking so I’m excited to get out and about (socially distanced, of course).

I still haven’t quite discovered my niche in pharmacy, but the variety and growing scope of the profession reassures me that my career can be as diverse, or as specialised, as I choose.

What opportunities do you think the profession offers?

Although 2020 threw us challenge after challenge, I believe pharmacy is beginning to gain the professional respect and recognition it deserves. It’s hard to predict what opportunities will present themselves, but I can see expanding roles in public health, disease prevention, medicine reviews and education. It’s definitely an exciting time to be beginning my career.

What do you enjoy most about being a pharmacist?

I love that through every interaction I’m helping someone. Some patients’ healthcare needs are more challenging than others, but I can leave work for the day knowing I really am making a positive difference in people’s lives. 

I also enjoy building connections and trust with patients. What may seem like a simple over-the-counter case to me is valued advice to a patient who doesn’t share my expertise. Pharmacy is just as much about educating and sharing knowledge as it is about providing medicines.

What are you hoping 2021 brings for the pharmacy profession?

I’m hoping 2021 brings a year of growth, challenge and recognition. We are in a pivotal time for our profession and I’m excited to see what everyone gets up to!