For former athletics star Emily Shears MPS, combining sport and pharmacy was always the plan. The question was how.
After owning two pharmacies and working as a locum, she eventually found the answer, launching the Female Athlete Network (FAN) last year. Through FAN, and her role as a wellbeing lead with the AFL NAB League, Emily helps female athletes to better understand their physiology and use this to achieve peak performance.
In this episode of Pharmacy & Me, Emily speaks with hosts Peter Guthrey and Hannah Knowles about how she combined her passion with her profession, the transferable skills pharmacists possess and the gaps in women’s healthcare she’s trying to fill.
Pharmacy & Me is proudly produced by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.
‘I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say, you know, kill it with kindness but if you can just sort of defuse any situation and find out why someone is feeling the way they’re feeling, then you’ll help them enormously. ’
emily shears mps
Follow the timestamps to jump to the topics below:
- [00:01:49] Balancing sport and study
- [00:05:02] An unconventional intern year
- [00:07:08] Life as a pharmacy owner
- [00:08:57] Dealing with challenging situations
- [00:15:30] Getting into professional sport
- [00:17:26] Filling gaps in women’s health
- [00:37:40] Emily’s top tips
- PSA’s pharmacist-to-pharmacist advice line: www.psa.org.au/about/contact-us/
- Emily Shears’ Australian Pharmacist profile: www.australianpharmacist.com.au/emily-shears-sporting-approach-pharmacy/
- The Female Athlete Network: https://www.thefemaleathletenetwork.com.au/
- PSA’s Career Pathway service: www.psa.org.au/career-and-support/career-pathways/
Emily [00:00:01] I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say, you know, kill it with kindness but if you can just sort of defuse any situation and find out why someone is feeling the way they’re feeling, then you’ll help them enormously.
Peter [00:00:21] From the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, hello and welcome to Pharmacy & Me. The podcast that explores how pharmacists do the extraordinary things they do. I’m Peter Guthrey from PSA and a community pharmacist at a 24/7 pharmacy in Melbourne.
Hannah [00:00:35] And I’m Hannah Knowles, a senior pharmacist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. Each episode of Pharmacy & Me, we speak to an everyday pharmacist doing outstanding work, and we talk about the highs and lows of their career, and unpack what they’ve learnt and how you can put their experience into your practice.
Peter [00:00:53] Today, we’re talking to a pharmacist who took a unique direction with her career by combining her love of sport with pharmacy, eventually opening her own consultancy. Before we introduce our guest, Hannah, what’s your sporting background?
Hannah [00:01:05] When I was younger, Pete, I was a competitive swimmer in the summer and then horse riding in the winter. As I’ve grown up, it’s very much a social aspect now, so I still play social netball with a work team and social football as well, indoor. What do you do to keep yourself busy with sport, Pete?
Peter [00:01:21] My love of sport really has come through television and particularly learning a lot more about women’s sport in recent years through the growth of cricket and the AFLW, which is a perfect segue to our guest today. So we’ll bring in an expert. We have Emily Shears joining us. Emily is a founder of the Female Athlete Network and a wellbeing lead for the AFL’s NAB League. Thanks for being here, Emily.
Emily [00:01:42] Oh, thank you so much, that was a great introduction, guys. It’s really awesome to be here today to talk all things pharmacy,
Hannah [00:01:49] And it’s so great to have you here, Emily. Let’s start with your unique career. Can you tell us why you got into pharmacy in the first place?
Emily [00:01:57] It kind of happened by default, to be honest. I was faced with leaving Year 12, not really knowing what to do. And I guess I was a little bit of a wagger at school, didn’t really like to front up. But, strangely, I could do chemistry without really thinking about it. So it was a family friend who actually suggested that I go for pharmacy. When it was time to put in my preferences, I actually got into physio and pharmacy, but it was that other, that family friend, who really convinced me in the end that pharmacy would be the way to go.
Hannah [00:02:31] And how did sport influence your journey throughout university?
Emily [00:02:36] Sport has always been there. I grew up in a very sporting family. My half brother has been to five Olympics and my sister made a Commonwealth Games, but unfortunately did not get to compete due to injury. I was competitive myself and I had the opportunity to complete my Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney on a sports scholarship, which was an incredible experience that opened a lot of doors. I got to travel with it, so I had the experience of going to the University of Hawaii for a term, for both athletics and continuing study. And then came back to the University of Sydney and at that point was talent identified to be part of the first Australian women’s skeleton team. And this whole time, I was trying to still study pharmacy as well. It was pretty interesting.
Hannah [00:03:27] And how did you go balancing such high commitments with your sport and your workload?
Emily [00:03:32] Time management. I think that’s what sport gives a lot of people, you do sport because you love it and you’re not going to give it up. So you make everything fit around it. And certainly I still do that now. To me, it’s a priority for my own physical and mental health. And while I’m not really competing much anymore, it just, it needs to be part of my life for me to stay sane. And it was the same when I was studying. If I wanted good study outcomes, I had to be doing physical work as well, so I’d make everything fit. I had some crazy nights studying. I can remember being at college, at Wesley College in Sydney and literally pulling all nighters and putting on clothes over my pyjamas to go and sit an exam. I’ve done that, I’ll put my hand up to that.
Hannah [00:04:22] I can definitely relate. I had a little bit of a meltdown before one of my exams at uni and I called dad, he said, Hannah, just go for a swim and call me back. And it’s amazing what that 30 minutes, an hour, of exercise can do, and it completely changes everything.
Emily [00:04:36] Absolutely. I say to a lot of athletes now, you know, find whatever it is that is your ctrl alt delete because you need it. Everyone needs to know what is the reset button for themselves. It might be a hot bath, it might be a run, it might be jumping in the cold ocean, but we all need to know what it is because we’ll perform better in whatever we’re trying to achieve.
Hannah [00:04:56] Absolutely and it’s such a good point. What did your career look like when you finished university?
Emily [00:05:02] Oh, I was confused. I think I was probably the only graduate in my cohort who did not have a pharmacy internship. I was in no rush. And so it was actually going and chatting to Andrew McLachlan, Dr Andrew McLachlan, who I know is still at Sydney University. And I remember standing in the halls of the college and talking about how I didn’t think I was done with study and I needed to find something to do that I could start to maybe think about bringing this all together, knowing what I was like personally, in my other life and having just completed pharmacy. And it was actually Andrew who helped me in terms of being a referee for me to get into the exercise sport science course because it was, you know, even the university was asking questions. Why is a pharmacist wanting to do exercise sport science? So we had to jump a few hoops to get in there but I got there in the end.
Peter [00:06:03] So did you jump straight into that further education or did you try and balance an intern year at the same time as further study?
Emily [00:06:11] I actually started pretty much straight away and I didn’t get an intern year until halfway through that next year. A position came up at Westmead Children’s and leveraging on my networks, my uncle was a surgeon at Westmead. So he helped me do the whole interview process and did finally get an internship at Westmead Children’s Hospital, which I did 6 months there, because that programme folded because the preceptor was pregnant and she was not having the best pregnancy. So I then finished my internship at a pharmacy in Leichhardt. So once I started the internship, I did put the studies on hold, so I started the exercise sports science, paused it, did my intern year, finished that up, and then I started working as a pharmacist and actually moved back to Melbourne at that point.
Peter [00:07:08] So you’ve got this sort of richness in your education, quite a diversity in your practice experience, at some stage you ended up being the managing partner of a pharmacy in Melbourne. What was that experience like for you?
Emily [00:07:20] If anyone would like to work 24/7, own a pharmacy or two. So it was actually two pharmacies in Albert Park, they were about a kilometre, 1.5 ks apart from each other, really interesting experience. One was in the heart of Albert Park, a very well to do area. And then you walk 1.5 kilometres down the road towards the water, and the pharmacy was just about opposite the Commission building. So, we had very diverse patients and customers, all walks of life. So we had methadone down at the pharmacy opposite the Commission, and then we had up at the other one we had customers who would get cranky that their black Amex didn’t fit through the EFTPOS machine. It’s a very diverse experience. It was very stressful some days, but I think I learnt so much about my ability to relate to people. And it sort of, I guess, forced my hand in me realising that perhaps, although I did have clinical knowledge, that my strength was actually talking to people and education and trying to get, you know, really good messages across about how to help them with their health journey. I sort of then realised how about if I employ pharmacists who are excellent clinically, then I can sort of be like a maitre’d and do sort of that type of role and educational role and leave the clinical stuff to those who know it a bit better than I.
Peter [00:08:57] You mentioned there that really lovely point about being in a patient-facing role really teaches you how to connect and relate to people. Are there any particular examples that stick out as something where you go, oh gosh, I really made a difference there, or I didn’t realise that I could make that impact?
Emily [00:09:12] Yes, certainly, I think, and it all comes down to the ability to have a conversation. So when, you know, you start to talk to a young mum who’s coming in frazzled and you say, oh, I just need this, and then you actually start to ask a few more questions and you find out that at home, she’s got two kids with ADHD under 5 and like, okay, well, how can we help you? So just, you know, taking the time to start a conversation and not being put off by someone who’s really abrupt with you and just try and calm any situation down with kindness, basically. I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say, you know, kill it with kindness, but if you can just sort of diffuse any situation and find out why someone is feeling the way they’re feeling, then you’ll help them enormously. And I think the way pharmacy is at the moment, it can be really hard to do that in some of the community settings. But if the pharmacy you’re working in allows you to take the time to get to know your customer or your patient, they’ll have a better experience and you’ll win them for life as a customer, which is pretty much business ownership 101, is, you know, you want to keep the customer. You don’t just want the random antibiotic script that you’ll never see again. You know you want them back again and again.
Peter [00:10:35] And it’s also not always about taking a lot more time, it’s actually sometimes talking to patients and asking that one question can actually save you a lot of time investigating why this prescription says what it does. And behind every prescription, there’s a person, behind every person, there’s a story. So I find that a very valuable part of my practice.
Hannah [00:10:54] Absolutely and that’s one of the reasons we became pharmacists, really, to actually look at helping and communicate with people. And all your knowledge is no good in your head unless you can actually convey that to someone else.
Emily [00:11:04] Oh, absolutely.
Hannah [00:11:06] So, Emily, after selling your share of the pharmacy business, you then moved to locuming. How did you balance sport and locuming?
Emily [00:11:14] I basically took off around Australia. So, I had the opportunity to go to Exmouth. So I did some incredible diving with whale sharks and surfing. And then when the summers got too hot and went and did some locuming at Thredbo. So I was doing skiing and also I started ski patrol. So I was able to stay really active. But with some of the highs, there were some pretty low, lows from that experience. I certainly had a situation one day where a patient came in, she was a young woman. She had a very big prescription wad for some serious pain relief, some Schedule 8s, including benzos and a few things, and then, you know, you start to read the script and you do all your checks and balances, and I realised that it was actually her father who was writing the prescriptions. It was a pretty interesting experience. I was actually back in Victoria when this happened and in Victoria, it’s completely illegal. You just cannot be doing that and so I asked this patient, I said, look, your father has written these prescriptions. I’m sorry, I can’t dispense these for you today. Can I help you find a GP or can I speak to your father? How can I help you? And she wasn’t really interested in what I had to say. So she left the store. Mum came back and yelled at me, how dare I? She needs these medications. Okay, I can see you’re upset. And then the pharmacy owner also sort of decided that he would chime in and told me off for not just pumping out scripts, basically, and that I should know better having been a pharmacy owner and that it’s not for me to make those decisions. To this day, I’m still really proud that I stood my ground and said, no, in fact, I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, Socrates is a bit of a big deal, first, do no harm. So, no, I am going to make a phone call or two. And I did. I made those phone calls to, you know, to put in the alert that this had been happening and it’s been happening for 9 years. And so for me to be the first practitioner to identify this is, you know, is and I don’t think I could have got to this point in being confident without all the previous experiences that I had had. So yes, I’d have fun locuming, but I also learnt a lot about myself and how I wanted to practice and how to stick with my ethical and moral boundaries myself. Obviously there are laws that we have to abide by as a pharmacist, but you also on top of knowing the laws and the guidelines, need to be sure about how you want to practice as a pharmacist. And certainly I was not going to be forced into practicing in a way that did not sit well with me.
Peter [00:14:06] For a young pharmacist, this can be quite a scary experience, and certainly if you need to reach out, PSA has the pharmacist-to-pharmacist phone support service for members that can provide support and guidance in these situations. But if you’re looking at yourself at that point in your career, what would your advice to your younger self have been about how to stand your ground and how to do the right thing?
Emily [00:14:27] To be honest, if I’d had that confrontation in my 20s, I probably would have cried. But I think in reflection now, it’s being calm in my response to say, well, actually, no, I am able to do this because this is how I practice as a pharmacist. And have confidence in the way that you practice, in the way you choose to be as a person and be just so sure about the rules. This scenario did get investigated. So in terms of being sure of the rules, that’s what you lean on, but just be sure about looking after that person, that young person that has come in for help, you know, that is the primary concern in this scenario and in many scenarios a young pharmacist will face in their career.
Peter [00:15:16] And certainly my experience has been where you have actually taken a ‘I’m here to help you’ approach to someone who’s asked you to do something either illegal or inappropriate, they tend to respond really well to that in most situations.
Emily [00:15:28] Absolutely, yes.
Hannah [00:15:30] You are now working in the professional sporting sphere. What piqued your interest in that?
Emily [00:15:37] I think it was quite a few things that came up there. One was really, firstly, acknowledging that I was probably done with being an elite athlete. So if I couldn’t be doing it, I wanted to be part of it. And then just the groundswell with women’s sport. There’s so much about women’s sport that is untapped at the moment. The unique needs of females in sport is extraordinary, and we still know now that the research largely, historically, is done on male athletes and translated to female athletes. So there’s a research gap, there’s a knowledge gap. So having someone on the ground to provide education, who’s not only had first-hand experience of being a female athlete, but also actually has the ability to read the scientific papers and translate that to an athlete for them to understand what’s happening to their body – that was me. All of a sudden I realised, you know, in the middle of Covid, when you’ve got more time to think, I was like, hang on, I can be this conduit. I am that person who understands both of these worlds and I can bring it together. So I created the Female Athlete Network late last year in the hope of doing all of that and bringing education in at ground level that was accessible to female athletes, specifically in the talent pathway. So, 15 to 23 years old, so really starting out in their sports careers, but the resources needed to be tangible and accessible. So a lot of these women or young girls, you know, they’re not necessarily aligned with a state sporting organisation. So their ability to access this really high level knowledge was difficult. So, yes, I just saw a gap and went for it.
Hannah [00:17:26] And what areas of women’s health do you find the gaps are? Where does your communication mainly focus?
Emily [00:17:33] It started out really around menstrual health and certainly that was something I’d identified working in pharmacy and you’d be standing there as a pharmacist asking a young woman about their cycle because you know, they’ve requested the morning after pill and you ask the simple question of ‘how long is your cycle?’ and they’ll say, oh, 4 days, like, no, that might be the length of your bleed, but that’s not the length of the cycle. And then you run through, you know, all right, well, what do you understand about your menstrual cycle. And they look at you like you just asked them something in Japanese. There’s no understanding of where ovulation might occur. There is no understanding that the length of a cycle should be approximately 28 days or that, you know, the accepted range is 21 to 35 days. There was just this huge knowledge gap. And then you take general population level of knowledge, which is already pretty low, and you put that in an athlete population where the majority of the people that they are looking up to are male, then the knowledge was even worse. So they had these, female athletes had no one to ask these questions. So I started with the idea of it purely being about menstrual health, education and understanding of menstrual disorders, but as I’ve got into the space, I’ve realised it’s so much more. It’s about breast health and breast injury prevention. It’s also about understanding the differences in how men versus women experience concussion. It’s huge, now that I’ve gone into it. So how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?
Peter [00:19:04] And what are the emerging issues in women’s sport that you are dealing with? Like I know, watching on television, I’ve been blown away by how quickly the professionalisation of AFLW and particularly the cricket game as well has come together so quickly compared to the product a few years ago. Part of that, I guess, is money. But what in terms of the work that you’re doing is contributing to that quite rapid development?
Emily [00:19:26] Sure, there is probably a two-part answer to that question. So firstly is the, my employed role at the AFL is that I work in the talent pathway, so developing these young women in preparation for the draft. So we previously didn’t have this for AFLW. So there is a level of understanding that part of the reason for those initial AFLW seasons with the injury right being so high is because they’d done talent transfer from netball and basketball and not football, because there was not football for these women to play and then they were thrust into a full contact sport. So what do you think is going to happen. So these girls are being taught how to tackle, all of that stuff that little boys do quite innately, they are now getting that education. The other issue is that it’s still a very male-dominated industry, which is nobody’s fault. It’s just how it’s been. And while there is a lot of change happening from the top down, for the moment, the best thing we can do is provide everyone with the education about what is unique to female athlete wellbeing needs, whether it is menstrual cycle and just general knowledge on the cycle or specifics about menstrual disorders and how really good management of that is going to help performance so, yes, definitely a two-fold question in terms of the rapid rise of sport. I think in terms of other codes, soccer and cricket have done it really well. It’s like they were ahead of the game, especially for cricket in Australia. And I think they’ve had some wonderful, wonderful people at Cricket Australia, who recognise the importance of that and have really pushed forward. So just in terms of another issue with women’s sport is pay and Cricket Australia is absolutely meeting that head on in terms of, if we’re looking at the whole of the female athlete wellbeing, one of the issues with AFLW is that girls enter this competition knowing that it’s a part-time job so they can’t commit fully to either path. So they’re either doing part-time study or part-time job, as well as part-time football and anyone who’s been an elite athlete, you know that that’s a really difficult ask. The equity thing is huge. Certainly, I think that plays a big role in the mental health and wellbeing of these athletes, but there’s obviously a lot that needs to be addressed as well physically, so it’s a big space.
Peter [00:21:53] I’m interested to explore a little bit what this might look like at a more grassroots level. Are there things that a community pharmacist really should now be aware of in terms of how injuries may present or some of the things that we need to really make sure that we’re alert to?
Emily [00:22:15] It comes back to what we just we spoke about previously is asking the right questions, you know, how did you do it? Did you wear any protective equipment? You know, things like if they’ve got a rib injury, there is protective equipment available that they can wear over their chest and breast, which will stop a lot of these things. Are they wearing a mouth guard? So it’s not just, do you need a bandage and an ice pack, it’s how could we prevent this happening in the future? And also doing some really good collaborative work with the network so that you know if this young person comes in and they need a sports doctor, that you’ve got someone that you can refer them to, if they need to go down that path. So I think always network when you can, if you get those opportunities, if you’re working in an all-in-one GP clinic that does have a bit of that allied health, make sure you, you know, you go and say hello and have those conversations, find out what the specialty is of that physiotherapist or the sports doctor, because you might surprise yourself with the conversations that you have. It might just make the difference to one person, which is always a good thing.
Hannah [00:23:24] Absolutely, and another area pharmacists can have a difference in is contraception, and I know you’ve been quite outspoken about the contraceptive pill. Why has that become a sticking point for you?
Emily [00:23:38] I feel that a lot of young women start the contraceptive pill not knowing what they’re getting themselves into. And I have no problems with people taking contraception or the fact that it exists. Don’t get me wrong there. I just would like young women to be fully aware and across how it works. You know, it does turn off your endogenous hormone. So with that, there can be consequences. So, yes, absolutely, clinically, that can be the right thing to be taking if there is a diagnosis of PCOS or if there is some really tricky symptom management that needs to happen out of something like PCOS. And just on PCOS, if you do some further reading, you’ll also find out that first line treatment is actually lifestyle modifiable factors that can be changed. So, looking at diet, looking at nutrition, is something that also should come into play with something like PCOS. I think there are just so many myths around the pill. You know, people say, oh, well, I’ve got really heavy menstrual bleeding, here go on the pill. Well, no, it doesn’t actually fix the heavy menstrual bleeding. It’s just that that little tablet that you’re taking takes over your hormones. So what can happen is when you go back off the pill that the issue is still there and the root cause of the issue is still there. So it’s just taking the time to be fully aware of what something can do to your body and also be really aware of the choice available. There was a 2020 survey done by the Queensland Academy of Sport, and within that survey, 50% of athletes were on the pill, that’s fine, but 88% of that 50% had no idea that there was more than one contraceptive pill. So they were having side effects and just thought, oh well, this is it, this is the pill. There’s not even an awareness that, hey, if you are getting hideous mood and hideous skin, you’ve got options. So it’s just, you know, all those things that you know is really hard to do with a one-minute consult. Here is your Estelle, thanks for my thirty dollars. So it’s about finding out why they’re wanting to take the contraceptive pill. If it’s for contraception, great. But if it’s because there’s this misunderstanding that it’s going to fix a problem, then it probably needs to be further conversation and further exploration with a medical practitioner.
Peter [00:25:55] And just on that point, we’ve seen, probably in practice, most pharmacists can identify people who come in with prescriptions for tramadol or combination codeine and paracetamol analgesics. These aren’t things that sort of leap to mind as either first line, second line or third line treatments for strong period pain. What are the kinds of short interventions that we can really look at there?
Emily [00:26:15] There’s so much that can be done there, and certainly in terms of supplements and symptom management for young women, it can be as simple as looking at their diet firstly. One thing we do know about the premenstrual phase is that it requires an additional 350 calories for the body to perform the menstrual bleed. So quite often the pain, low mood, all that type of thing is because there’s not enough food on board for the body to perform the process. So eating enough high quality food is really key. Being really well hydrated is actually really important as well, because what happens in that phase four is your blood thickens, your heart rate is higher and your blood pressure is higher. So everything’s working a lot harder. So we need to be really well hydrated, have really good nutrition. And then once we’ve nailed that, then we can look at pain relief options. So I’d start with magnesium, always food for the first option, so leafy greens and your banana, and then you can bring in compounding as well. So we know that amitriptyline works beautifully for PMS, so you can actually compound that into a cream and be applied directly to the pelvic region, which has incredible results. If a patient can’t access a doctor who’s willing to write a compound prescription, taking amitriptyline orally sometimes is the best option rather than jumping straight to the tramadol.
Hannah [00:27:41] And one of the things that’s been a theme through this conversation is the role of lifestyle modifications, and it’s very much first line for a lot of our chronic disease treatment that we see. Do you have any recommendations for actually starting to engage in that conversation?
Emily [00:27:57] You will get pushback because people sometimes find it quite a personal question, but stick at it. I find usually the easiest and most casual way to ask is how are you sleeping? That actually opens everything up because you can say that quite casually without saying, well, you know how many cans of coke did you have yesterday? You know, you’ve got to really do it, really non-judgmentally. And I think, going with sleep is usually the easiest way to ask, how did you sleep? All right, well, what did you have for breakfast when you woke up? And you can start to piece together what is happening for that person. In terms of your reference there, chronic disease, I think sometimes practitioners forget that endometriosis and PCOS and adenomyosis actually do fit under the umbrella of chronic disease. So if you have a wonderful GP in your networks, you can really help this person through accessing the Medicare available CDM. They have item numbers to help this person. Chronic disease isn’t just Type II diabetes; it is also these menstrual health disorders, which can be incredibly crippling to young women.
Hannah [00:29:01] Very much so.
Peter [00:29:02] Earlier in the year, you had a quite fantastic piece, a career profile with this most beautiful, amazing, immersive photo of the work that you do in a gym. And you spoke quite a lot of the things that we’ve heard about today, but also, I really liked when you said that ‘on a daily basis, I conduct medicine reviews of sorts. I just work with a younger demographic, who have different goals’. I thought this really encapsulated the transferable skills that we have as pharmacists in different practices. What does a typical review for that cohort look like?
Emily [00:29:33] Yes, great question because quite often when I say to a GP, if I actually call them, like I just said about, you know, PCOS is a chronic disease too. You dig down, you have this conversation and you find out that these women are popping pills left, right and centre because they’ve had one practitioners say, oh, you should take ibuprofen and celebrex and magnesium, and they go to another practitioner because they’re just going to bulk bill practices, because that’s who is accessible and they’ll be put on meloxicam and something else. And they just think you can just take all of this together and then you add in the amitriptyline that’s taken orally and then they’re taking Panadol Osteo and then, you know, they’ll be throwing in whatever they can find available in terms of supplements. So quite often it’s literally sitting down and saying, all right, well, what are you taking? What are your treatment goals? Are we aiming for pain free? Are we aiming for a particular event that you have coming up? You know, are you hoping to conceive a child? You need to establish the patient goals, firstly, because certainly if they’re hoping to conceive a child, well then it actually really does shift how you’re trying to help this person. But quite often it’s about really narrowing down what they’re trying to achieve. If they’re aiming for pain free so they can train and compete then it’s usually literally figuring out, all right, well, you’re taking four different anti-inflammatories as a complete cocktail that’s probably destroying your guts, but you’ve also started taking Nexium, which you’re buying over the counter. It’s a matter of figuring out what they’re taking and giving them a really clear guideline of what they should be taking with regards to something like pain management, but also giving really clear food, nutrition and sleep guidelines. Any time you can refer someone on to an expert in that, it’s always fantastic. You’ll get really good engagement from that patient. So back to that networking piece, know a good dietitian, know a good physio, know a good exercise physiologist so that you can really help people who need chronic disease management for basically a young person’s disease.
Hannah [00:31:47] Absolutely, are there are any other considerations, Emily, when we’re reviewing medications for sports people? Like I know here at the hospital, we avoid beta blockers in young people just because of the implications with exercise.
Emily [00:32:01] Yes, for sure, I actually keep the Sports Integrity Australia app on my phone, although it’s not necessarily my responsibility as a professional. Each athlete, the onus is on them in terms of what they put in their body and the Sports Integrity Australia guidelines certainly make that very clear. But it does help if the pharmacist has a good understanding of what is legal and what is not. In the AFL world, compounding, full stop, do not ask a question, it is not allowed. Thanks to Essendon, so they cannot use an amitriptyline cream and they cannot use any of that really useful stuff. They can’t have magnesium glycinate capsules. They’ve got to have a proprietary approved product, so just knowing that will really help your patient. And if you’re speaking with a sports person, you’ll have better engagement if you show that you have the confidence and understanding that they are bound by those rules.
Peter [00:33:01] And is this something that as a pharmacist we should be routinely asking people who are presenting who might show up in football clothing, although being in Melbourne, everyone wears their supporters clothes or other things because there are potentially over-the-counter medicines that you may need to give some guidance around.
Emily [00:33:19] Yes, I think you can just ask if, you know, are you playing at a level where you might be tested for drugs in sport? It’s as simple as asking that question. I mean, the open-ended answer to that is that anyone at any level of sport can be tested. But let’s be realistic, they’re probably not going to check Sally the local legend playing D grade footy. I mean, certainly in AFLW, the girls are routinely tested. And it’s like some of the swimmers I work with, you know, they can get a knock on the door at any, any moment in time.
Hannah [00:33:53] Yes, I did some coaching with Swimming Australia and one of the courses we did was the drug testing in sport. And it’s quite scary, as, you know, a 15-year-old on an international stage that you can get a knock on the door at 3 am, time to test.
Emily [00:34:08] And we are just going to stand here and watch you wee.
Hannah [00:34:14] We’ve discussed quite a lot of the skills that you bring as a pharmacist into the sports medicine area, lifestyle medicine, are there any particular skills that you think would be good for people to develop wanting to get into that area?
Emily [00:34:29] The ability to talk to anyone, and some people can do this and some people can’t. But I think it also comes from having the knowledge and the confidence in your knowledge so that you can share it amongst those who really need it. I think the other thing is being really sure of who you are as a practitioner so that you know your moral and ethical boundaries. I think definitely knowing why you’re wanting to do something, which will just make you seem like a really genuine practitioner as well. I always give the example in this situation, like you’re never going to trust a GP who smokes, you know. So it’s always, it comes from a much better place when you’re really authentic with what you’re trying to achieve.
Hannah [00:35:14] Absolutely and when you say that you need knowledge, it’s obviously something that’s part of pharmacist professional development. Is there any where that you access or seek information?
Emily [00:35:24] Currently, I am absolutely head down in the books of doing my International Board Certification in Lifestyle Medicine. So that is all I have looked at for the last 6 months. But I actually do look a bit overseas. Covid has done wonderful things for CPD, I have to say, in terms of the access to conferences overseas, like I went to a Harvard Uni Boston Children’s Hospital conference in June this year, like it was at a hideous hours like 11pm till 7am. It turned me into a zombie. But I think you can look beyond just what’s in Australia.
Hannah [00:36:01] It gives some good opportunities, and I understand that you worked for PSA previously in the Knowledge and Development Team. What did you learn about the developing all of this continued professional development and educational offering?
Emily [00:36:13] I figured out that I really enjoyed it, which is good, but also the amount of detail that is required to produce a product in terms of things like creating the aged care modules for aged care pharmacists, which I believe is being rolled out this year and also just, you know, the process of accrediting information so that it can be used for official CPD points. So I was only in the development team for a very short while, it was a short contract. But I think it stood me in good stead for what I’m now doing, which is creating my own content and delivering my own education streams through the Female Athlete Network.
Peter [00:36:42] And being within the four walls of PSA, I’m certainly quite privileged to see the very high quality of work that the Knowledge Development team do and particularly through my work in Australian Pharmacist as well with the CPD content. To round out each of the podcasts, we do have a couple of questions that we like to ask for all of our guests. So our first one is, what is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given that’s helped your career so far?
Emily [00:37:15] Don’t underestimate yourself. And if you’ve got something in mind and if it hasn’t been done before, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. That’s pretty much verbatim from Dr Andrew McLachlan. You know, he said that to me as a 22-year-old, just because we haven’t seen sport and pharmacy come together, it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.
Hannah [00:37:40] Some very wise words and finally, what are your top three tips for pharmacists who want to combine their passions with their career?
Emily [00:37:47] Don’t give up would be the first one and also do your reading. You know, you can’t come across as authentic and confident if you don’t have the knowledge base. So, don’t cheat yourself on your CPD. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but you won’t be able to help the people that you want to help if you don’t have the knowledge base. And I think the third thing is, have fun with it. If you find something that you enjoy, go after it because you’re in a career a long time, so you’ve got to be able to enjoy it.
Peter [00:38:22] Absolutely, thank you so much for coming on the show, Emily, we really appreciate your time and really appreciate your insight.
Emily [00:38:29] I really enjoyed it, guys, this is good fun.
Hannah [00:38:31] It’s been so lovely to have you, Emily, and thank you to everyone for listening. You can check out the show notes for links to everything we’ve spoken about today. And don’t forget to subscribe to get episodes as soon as they’re released.
Peter [00:38:43] And if you’re wondering where to take your pharmacy career, check out PSA’s career pathway service on the PSA website.