Champion of change for Early Career Pharmacists

PSA’s Early Career Pharmacist Board Appointed Director Deanna Mill MPS

Deanna Mill MPS, a PhD candidate and PSA’s Early Career Pharmacist Board Appointed Director, is passionate about promoting professionalism in pharmacy practice.

Why pharmacy?

When I was young, I had a lot of trouble with repeated respiratory infections and was prescribed prednisolone several times. I was intrigued by how that drug made me feel – hungry, bloated, irritable. It affected my sleep but also helped me clear the infections. I remember the pharmacist telling Mum about it, and I wanted to know more. Then in high school I did work experience at the local pharmacy. In a country town where it took weeks to see a GP, the pharmacist was a hero helping people daily with their health, and I wanted to be like her.

What happened after you left university?

I landed a hospital pharmacy internship with the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network in 2017, working in different areas, including Port Pirie in country South Australia. In early 2019, I left to complete my PhD.

I have since worked as a tutor, a workshop facilitator and practical demonstrator in pharmacy programs at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and University of South Australia (UniSA) – and casually in a community pharmacy that services a private hospital, and as a research assistant.

Hear more from Deanna Mill in the podcast episode below:

What has been your most fulfilling role?

This is like asking me to choose a favourite child (or cat in my case). I’ve learnt so much from every workplace, and I encourage early career pharmacists (ECPs) to experiment early on in their careers. Once you know what you like, build a job that has all of those things!

My hospital and community pharmacy experiences make me a better teacher and researcher because I can contextualise content for my students and ensure my research will benefit all practising pharmacists. I love educating people. It’s so rewarding to help our next generation grow.

I also love research. Practice improvement is close to my heart, and research helps us understand why things are the way they are and how we can change them to ensure we provide the best possible care for patients. I can’t describe how rewarding it is to see someone pick up your research and use it to change their practice.

What inspired you to start a PhD?

I was frustrated by the barriers pharmacists face that prevent us from being able to practise to our full scope. I wanted to understand the systems that we work in, how to change them, and contribute to the evidence to do so.

‘I wanted to understand the systems that we work in, how to change them, and contribute to the evidence to do so.’

Deanna Mill MPS

How can the issue of pharmacist remuneration be overcome?

The main issue is that our current system only remunerates us for providing a product. We need to be recognised for the value that we add providing services, medicines and health information and support in prescribing decisions and reviewing therapy. These are the things that we should be remunerated for. Attaching funding to pharmacists and their time and expertise – instead of a product – will promote quality use of medicines for all. Pharmacists promote quality care when given the time and resources to do so, and every Australian deserves the best care, not the bare minimum.

You’re also Chair of PSA’s ECP Community of Speciality Interest. Why did you take on this role?

I wanted to make sure our extraordinary ECPs are seen and heard and can continue to support PSA’s advocacy efforts with constructive discussions about the challenges we face as a profession.

I hope to help ECPs connect and share their thoughts, concerns and innovations.

By empowering each other, we can elevate the ECP voice to create the profession that we and all Australians deserve. The ECPs I have met and worked with so far have quickly become fast friends and my biggest supporters. I wanted to get involved to give everyone the opportunity to find their ‘pharmily’ and have the experience that I have had.

What do you see as the future of pharmacy in Australia?

I’d like to see a pharmacist in every residential care facility, general practice, hospital ward, ambulance service – wherever medicines are prescribed and used, we should be there. Australians deserve access to our expertise no matter where they access healthcare. Imagine how many problems we could fix and prevent if we worked in these settings as decisions were being made!

A day in the life of Deanna Mill MPS, PSA ECP Board Appointed Director and PhD candidate at UWA.

7.00 am – Gym time

Rising early isn’t really my thing, but starting the day with a complete task gets me motivated for the day ahead. CrossFit-style training is my go-to.

9.00 am – At the desk

Writing, my least favourite task, is scheduled first. This week’s tasks include adding new literature to my paper on the results of a study on pharmacists’ use of guidelines, and providing feedback to a colleague on our manuscript about pharmacists’ use of the Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary.

11.30 am – Research meetings

Supervising several pharmacy students at UniSA and UWA, the research team meets today to discuss recruitment strategies for our survey looking at personality traits and career outlook of pharmacists, interns and pharmacy students. The students have had trouble recruiting other students for the survey, so we chat about strategies to encourage more completion.

12.00 pm – In the classroom

I facilitate a workshop for second-year pharmacy students on supplying emergency contraception. Role- playing different scenarios, we discuss the pharmacist’s responsibilities, including how to balance getting a thorough history to supply while ensuring the patient is comfortable and gets all the necessary information.

2.00 pm – Lunchtime

Always at least half an hour away from screens for lunch. Listening to a podcast in the garden while eating helps to switch off and reset for a bit.

2.40 pm – ECP duties

A quick review of the ECP CSI discussion forum shows an interesting thread on the differences in pharmacy practice between countries. Consider how we could expand on this to learn from pharmacists around the world. Meet with the chairs of the other CSIs and PSA staff to discuss successes so far, including the launch of Pharmacy & Me, PSA’s podcast featuring ECPs.

4.30 pm – Emails and admin

Time to review my to-do list and emails, plan what is needed for the next day and who I am meeting.

6.00 pm – Winding down

With many evening meetings, I make sure to take similar time off soon after, with a later start next day or a longer lunch break. Balance is crucial to managing my workload. If there are no scheduled meetings, it’s time to cook a delicious meal, water my many plants, watch some trashy Netflix, do some stretching and rest.

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