Post-partum president

Chelsea Felkai MPS
Chelsea Felkai MPS

Chelsea Felkai MPS usually balances a busy life of university teaching, PhD study and community pharmacy locum shifts in Newcastle, NSW. The new PSA NSW President is working on her latest role after giving birth to Scarlett, her second daughter, in July.

What has been your initial impression of the work involved in your first 5 months as NSW president?

I made a commitment to the branch committee that I could still fulfill both duties, which is only fair enough, but I feel like, having been on the committee now for 3 years, they’ve seen my worth. To be honest, it’s been relatively manageable so far because I’m on maternity leave. I’ve got that extra time to be able to do the meetings and focus more on the role than trying to juggle it with work.

What has been the role so far?

Lots of keeping my finger on the pulse – keeping abreast of the many regulatory and policy changes relating to COVID-19 and ensuring the needs of pharmacists are not overlooked. It’s then been important to manage the information and ensure that pharmacists know what they’re doing, what changes are taking place and are feeling confident in their roles.

What do you want to accomplish?

We are currently working really hard on mental health within NSW. The PSA has managed to secure a number of grants for training in mental health first aid.

Long term we’re looking at vaccination expansion. We’ve been able to achieve so much and we’re hoping to maintain that forward momentum.

I’d really like to break into travel vaccines, be part of the National Immunisation Program [in NSW]; pharmacist recognition on that would be a huge win.

I’m focusing on community pharmacies in particular. As an early career pharmacist, remuneration is one of the key aspects that needs addressing, as well as widening the scope for community pharmacists. We’ve started with vaccinations and want to continue that – particularly in the area of minor ailments.

Are you laying the groundwork for a COVID-19 vaccine as well?

That’s part of what we’re working on at the moment. We’re working with NSW Health on what pharmacists might be able to do once a vaccine becomes available to everyone.

We have worked hard to expand vaccinations in NSW to include MMR and DTP, and lowering the minimum age to 10 years for influenza.

I think on a public health level, it’s recognised by the government how vital it’s been to have healthcare professionals who are so accessible and in touch with the public in pharmacies, so people can literally walk in off the street and get a vaccination.

Has your PhD study affected your approach to work?

I’ve completed a bit over a year; I’m looking at chronic disease management in patients who are on the opioid treatment program, in particular those being treated in community pharmacy. It was through my previous work in an opioid treatment clinic, and interacting with patients on the opioid treatment program that fuelled my drive to think there’s more to these patients than we see. There’s a lot more scope for pharmacists working with this cohort in particular.

What does the future hold?

I’ve not allowed myself to look too closely past the PhD because I really feel like I have to get through that first. But I’ve set up a business with a couple of colleagues that focuses on how we can better manage medicine use with people who have a disability. My colleagues and I are also conducting research into this area through the University of Newcastle because there’s a lot of scope for pharmacists with medicines in the disability sector.


A typical pre-birth working day for Chelsea Felkai, PSA NSW President

8.00 am – The day begins

Drop older daughter Maya, 1, at daycare en route to the University of Newcastle. Trawl through/ respond to emails from personal/professional, student email and staff email accounts – never with fewer than 10 emails in each, every day!

9.00 am – Teaching and study preparation

Review teaching material for the day, research and update previous year’s teaching resources. Update ethics application for PhD project with peer-review feedback.

10.00 am – Presidential duties

Zoom meeting with Ministry of Health as PSA NSW President. Agenda items include the impact of the NSW COVID-19 response and areas of concern for pharmacists; discuss vaccination items, such as funded vaccines and COVID-19 vaccination administration; receive update on progression of real-time prescription monitoring and discuss implementation.

11.00 am – First workshop

Conduct the first group of fourth-year transition-to-practice workshops on eye and ear conditions via Zoom.

1.00 pm – Break time

Have lunch while reading a journal paper relevant to research.

2.00 pm – Second workshop

Conduct second group of fourth-year transition-to-practice workshops. Afterwards update systematic review search and continue reviewing papers for inclusion/exclusion in PhD project.

5.20 pm – Home time

Collect daughter from day care before 5.30 pm closing. Sometimes only just make it!

8.00 pm – Night work

After dinner with family, take part in NSW ECP working group monthly meeting. Discuss plans for promotions on World Pharmacists Day. Crawl into bed.