The NSW representative on PSA’s Early Career Pharmacist (ECP) working group, Bridgette Mackley MPS is a community pharmacist in Coffs Harbour, NSW, and PSA’s NSW Intern of the Year.
How important was the university experience in relation to your career?
I studied at the University of Newcastle (UoN), completing my degree in 2019. The pharmacy department there had so much variety; community pharmacists who sat on the board of examiners for pharmacy, pharmacist committed in policy and advocacy, a member of the PCA; pharmacists who worked for the World Health Organisation, authors, pharmacologists, health literacy experts, acclaimed drug designers, Home Medicines Review/Residential Medication Management Review accredited pharmacists, accredited diabetes educators, and pharmacists who specialised in transgender health.
This exposure to the breadth of opportunities showed me I could do anything I wanted with my career.
What did you learn in your intern year which had an impact on your job?
The COVID-19 pandemic hit soon after I started my internship at Wollongong Hospital. At this time my workplace was divided into teams and my preceptor was assigned to a different department. It meant no face-to-face contact, and my training was put on hold for several months. The experience taught me you can still be a leader as an intern if you manage yourself. Your workplace is not responsible for your education, you are. It’s important to take control, set priorities and be accountable to yourself.
Plan your workplace goals, discuss them with your supervisor (if they are available), and tick them off as you complete them. Internships are hard and there will always be ups and downs. Have faith the lows will improve and use the support services from your training provider.
Are mentors important for early career pharmacists?
Yes! Having one fast-tracked my career. I received a Rural Pharmacy Scholarship during university, and as part of that scholarship program each student needed a mentor. I found my mentor, who was based in Tasmania, at a conference. So we caught up via phone every 3 months. I would tell her about my ideas, and she would tell me how to make them a reality.
She introduced me to the PSA Early Career Pharmacist White Paper document and the PSA Early Career Pharmacist Working Group. She encouraged me to go to conferences and introduced me to pharmacists making change in the industry. Rachel framed my view of pharmacy. I would not be the pharmacist I am today without her influence.
‘I would urge employers and employees to openly negotiate wages, including pay rises, as skills and experiences increase.’
How did you become a NSW representative on the National ECP Working Group?
I first joined the group as an observer. After 2 years I started volunteering to stand in as secretary, and chairing meetings when people were away.
After finding myself in the Chair role for more than a year, I was voted in as NSW ECP state representative. The working group is open to all PSA members who have been registered for less than 10 years. It’s free and everyone is welcome.
What are your long-term career goals?
I want to work in a role where I can spend longer periods of time with patients, providing holistic care and advocating for medicine optimisation on their behalf. Obtaining my HMR/RMMR accreditation and training as a GP Pharmacist is a pathway to achieving this.
What would you tell the profession on behalf of young pharmacists?
Many early career pharmacists are only paid the award rate. It’s not a sufficient recognition of the responsibility that pharmacists hold, and not sufficient for the current model of pharmacy to continue in the future.
I would urge employers and employees to openly negotiate wages, including pay rises, as skills and experiences increase. Also, we need every pharmacist lobbying for pharmacist services to be subsidised by the government on the Medicare Benefits Schedule. And finally, we need to begin preparing clients for more ‘patient funded’ services, moving away from price wars that devalue our profession