From the sunshine state to the capital

Karen Campbell MPS

The ACT’s 2022 Pharmacist of the Year is an immunising pharmacist who spent 20 years as a travel agent before her ‘dream’ job.

Why pharmacy?

I worked in community pharmacy as a teenager and always had a keen interest in medicines and how they worked. I lived in Townsville and they didn’t have a pharmacy degree at James Cook University (JCU) at the time and I wasn’t in a position to study in Brisbane. Instead, I became a travel agent and roamed the world. Twenty years later I decided it was time to follow my dream. My youngest had started school, so with a lot of support from my husband, family and friends, I graduated from James Cook University (JCU) in 2013.

What were your formative experiences?

With JCU’s wide focus on rural and remote pharmacy, I had placements in Cloncurry, Mount Isa and surrounding areas, where I saw the difficulties including physical, cultural, financial and logistical barriers to health care. My experiences included travelling to Indigenous communities to perform medication reviews, clinical outreach and education to school children. I finished my degree with a month-long placement at Port Vila Central Hospital in Vanuatu which highlighted how a lack of government funding and lack of education affects people’s health literacy and access to medicines. Overall, I often find that many people do not feel as though they are treated as an individual and do not understand their medicine or why they are taking it, so are reluctant. In my day-to-day practice I focus on the person as an individual, develop a rapport and try to keep lines of communication open to hopefully give patients autonomy in their own health care.

What are the benefits of vaccinating, both professionally and personally?

The expansion of COVID-19 vaccinations into community pharmacy has increased our scope of practice as well as expanded our clinical knowledge on things such as diluting and drawing up of vaccines, vaccine interactions and immunocompromising disease states. Pharmacists were perfectly placed to provide information to people regarding vaccinations and any hesitation they may have had.

The professionalism and ease with which vaccinations were delivered through pharmacy have raised the profile of pharmacies and pharmacists in relation to vaccination and medicines. Professionally and personally I feel a sense of pride knowing that I have been able to vaccinate hundreds of people, potentially saving the lives of vulnerable and at-risk groups.

Tell us about your Care@Home role

Initially COVID-19 oral antiviral medicines were only available through the national stockpile at The Canberra Hospital through the COVID Care@Home team. My role at the time involved receiving patient profiles and prescriptions from the team, dispensing the medicines, communicating with the patient for a full medication history and ensuring the prescribed medicine was appropriate. I recommended any temporary changes to other medicines that were required and counselled the patient. An accurate history was essential as one of the medicines has many drug-drug interactions, so is often contraindicated. Many of the patients eligible for these medicines were elderly or immunocompromised so had complex medication regimens. In collaboration with the CC@H doctors I ensured patients were provided the best possible health care and assisted when the oral antivirals were rolled out into community pharmacy. Working on weekends, I saw people often had difficulty accessing their GPs so the COVID Care@Home team would conduct the consultation with the patient and write the necessary script, seek out the closest pharmacy with stock and ensure timely access (i.e. within 5 days of illness onset).

Advice for young pharmacists?

Post-pandemic pharmacy is on the verge of huge changes with increases in remuneration, scope of practice and greater opportunities in aged care. Choose something close to your heart and make the most of any opportunity!

A day in the life of Karen Campbell MPS, Senior Pharmacist, Capital Chemist Southlands, ACT.

8.00 am Getting ahead

Start work before pharmacy opens to get a start on online script orders and get organised. Make a green tea – will probably be cold by the time I drink it!

8.30 am Morning rush

Between three and eight pharmacists are on duty throughout the day, each with a specific role – Dispensing, Pharmacist on Floor (PoF), Vaccinating, Webster, Consulting. For 3 days a week I am PoF, and enjoy front store interaction. One regular patient comes in for a cholesterol check, with his condition managed with natural medicines and minimal prescription medicines due to adverse effects. Draw up COVID-19 vaccines, noting appointment timing so vaccines won’t expire and be wasted within the 6-hour period. Order coffee! Take a call from another regular consumer (lives a block away) who has had a fall. Go to her house, help her up and call ambulance as she has significant foot swelling.

11.00 am Problem solving

GP calls re DAA patient having trouble with pain management. Phone patient to run through her medicine changes and counsel on importance of taking her slow-release medicine morning and night – not change the regimen from how it is packed. Sort out prescriber’s erroneous approval level for medicinal cannabis containing 25 mg/mL THC. Lunch!

1.30 pm Medicines shortages ++

Dispensary ordering and check out-of-stock medicine availabilities from different wholesalers. Appointment for fitting holter monitor for patient with suspected AF. See sales rep for training on new practitioner-only natural medicines. Phone GP re script for nirmatrelvir/ritonavir for COVID-19. As patient is on amiodarone – contraindicated – recommend change to molnupiravir.

5.00 pm Home time

Dog walks, family time, and the odd online webinar to keep up the CPD points.

5.45 pm Last-minute emergency

Fourth year student at work calls re regular patient with dementia. She took all 40 capsules of molnupiravir at once. Liaise with CC@H who makes contact with patient. Ambulance called.