Life as a Sydney suburban community pharmacist

Community pharmacist Loan Pham MPS
Loan Pham MPS

Loan Pham MPS, a daughter of Vietnamese refugees, has spent 14 years at one pharmacy. She loves it so much, she’s hoping to buy it.

What set you on the path to a career in pharmacy?

Growing up in Sydney I always had a passion to work in the health sector. During my last year of studying for a Bachelor of Medical Science I decided to study pharmacy because I felt it would be a rewarding profession to be able to help those in the community.

How did you find the course structure at your chosen university and did it affect your later decision-making?

I was accepted into the Master of Pharmacy graduate degree course at the University of Sydney in 2004, the year it was introduced. It was a 2-year course that included clinical placement. This gave me firsthand experience working in hospitals, mental health clinics and community pharmacy. I particularly enjoyed community pharmacy, which allowed me to interact with consumers.

What lessons did you learn as an intern?

I did my internship at Blooms the Chemist Leichhardt and learnt invaluable skills, including that in community pharmacy you need to be compassionate, genuine and to empathise with your patients and to build trust as a health professional. I’ve been here ever since.

What made you consider a future in community pharmacy?

Community pharmacy allows you the face-to-face contact with your patient and these patients tend to become regular consumers. We form a trusted relationship with our patients that allows us to provide medicines and advise patients on how to take medicines safely and understand the impact of what they are taking.

What were some of the highlights in your 14 years as a community pharmacist?

Firstly, one of the highlights would be the people whom I have worked with and met. They have helped shape me into the pharmacist that I am today. Secondly, seeing community pharmacy evolve from focusing largely on dispensing medicines and then moving to the forefront of providing early intervention to patients by assessing and providing risk assessment.

The introduction of pharmacists’ providing vaccinations has also resulted in pharmacists expanding their role in health services and further changing patients’ perception of community pharmacy as more than just dispensing medicines.

Also, the introduction of My Health Record and digital health has allowed us to access information that will help with adverse drug interactions and managing the multiple medicines and chronic conditions of some patients, and to collaborate with other health professionals.

What is your next likely career step?

The next step in my pharmacy career is to soon go into ownership of this pharmacy. I have been thinking about this for the past few years and am looking forward to this next phase in my career.

Where do you see yourself in 5–10 years?

I see myself running a successful business. With the ever-changing landscape of community pharmacy, it’s important to be open to change and to continue to remain relevant to patients and consumers by improving the pharmacist’s role in the delivery and management of healthcare.

A TYPICAL DAY for Loan Pham MPS, community pharmacist at Blooms the Chemist, Leichhardt. NSW.

8.30 am – The morning rush

Dispense and counsel patients on new medicines. Provide advice and recommendations. One regular customer had a new antidepressant prescription. I advised on the importance of a washing out period between mirtazapine and then swapping over to sertraline.

12.00 pm – Making medicine use safer

More dispensing. One of our regular patients, who is visually impaired, came in with a prescription for a reducing dose of prednisone that was to taper over a month. She was confused about what to do. To put her at ease, I told her we would pack the reduced prednisone in a dose administration aid so it would be easier for her to remember when to take it.

2.00 pm – Vaccines, pick-ups and delivery

Administering flu vaccines via either prior appointment or to walk-ins. Organising medicines for deliveries or pick-ups for customers who have called or emailed requests because of COVID-19 and cannot come into the pharmacy as they are vulnerable and have been required to isolate.

4.30 pm – Supplier challenges

A doctor calls about ordering medicinal cannabis CBD oil for a patient. Our usual supplier is out of stock long term, so I have to contact other suppliers. It took several days to find a cost-effective, appropriate-strength product. The doctor was contacted and a new Special Access Scheme approval form was organised.

7.30 pm – Keeping up with change

At home, I take time to read up on changes to opioid prescribing and the introduction of electronic prescriptions. Then I check through emails not able to be attended to during the day, for instance those arriving after closing time including updates from head office.  

Further resources

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