How does it feel to be named the National Glucojel Super Star Award winner?

I was just so excited to win the Tasmanian Glucojel Super Star award, and then I was completely blown away to learn that I have won the National award! It’s all been a bit surreal. I am so honoured and humbled to win. This award isn’t just for me – it belongs to everyone who provides caring and compassionate customer service to their customers.

Are you looking forward to attending the Pharmacy Assistant National Conference?

I’m very excited! That’s a big part of why I’ve gotten involved – I was so looking forward to going to the workshop days to meet other pharmacy assistants at the Tassie event. I also wanted to sit in on the PATY workshop panel at the Conference as well. I am so excited and I can’t wait to arrive at the Gold Coast!

What do you love about community pharmacy?

Developing that rapport and getting to know people is what I really love and value about my work as a pharmacy assistant. Just being there for our customers, and listening and supporting them when things are tough. Just recently, one of our regular customer’s husband had a quadruple bypass, and as a result he was in a coma for two weeks. I gave her my phone number and we met for coffee on my day off because I just felt this overwhelming need to support her and be there for her. It’s not about always saying the right thing, but showing someone that you are there and that you do care.

We also do the Webster packs for a group home for adults with intellectual disabilities and there is one lady who won’t be served by anyone else but me, so I always make sure I have time for her. It’s just those little things that we sometimes can overlook or take for granted, but to someone else, they mean so much.

What has your career in pharmacy looked like?

I started in pharmacy in the early 90s, back in Brisbane at the Wal Scerri Pharmacy Academy. It was a fantastic way to learn because it was full-time, over six months in a classroom setting, and we’d have reps come out and show us products and run workshops. I really enjoyed the face-to-face learning and found it incredibly valuable. I then got my first job in the industry, in a small community pharmacy. I love community pharmacy because I am such a ‘people person’ and you get to build that rapport. I was working in a lower socio-economic area and I found that it was a really valuable learning curve because I was so young. Even though people didn’t have much, everyone was very appreciative of the help that we provided. Some of our elderly customers would just come in and talk to us, because they enjoyed the sense of community and friendship between us. That’s when I really feel in love with community pharmacy.

I then had my son and moved to the Sunshine Coast where I worked part-time in a few pharmacies while he was little. I couldn’t get a part-time job in a pharmacy on the Sunshine Coast, so I left the pharmacy industry by no choice of my own and moved into tourism, which was completely different!

Shortly after, I decided to study and become a nurse, but I was too soft or maybe too caring and really struggled with the constant heartache. I worked on the stroke ward and we often lost patients and it just became too hard for me to mentally deal with. I found my way back into community pharmacy and haven’t looked back. My experience in hospitals and as a nurse has definitely been a massive help to me in clinically caring for our customers. I was working at Chemmart on the Sunshine Coast and we had a lot of health care checks which I was responsible for, so it was very busy. I then moved to Tasmania, where I have really just fallen on my feet and found a great pharmacy team to work with.

I work in a Discount Drug Store in a small team. It’s just our pharmacist, one other girl and myself most of the time. My strength is customer service and maintaining the front of the shop. We both offer a lot of support to our pharmacist, who is very caring in nature – just like me! We have a lot of loyal customers, who often just pop in to say ‘hello’, so we’re very lucky!

What makes your customer service so great?

I really do care so much about our customers and many of them know that I am always here to listen to them, support them and offer a shoulder to cry on if it’s necessary. I just love going the extra mile for people, as it makes my work so much more rewarding. It doesn’t bother me to drop something into a customer on my way home from work. It’s all those things that set you apart from other pharmacies in our community – that sense of commitment and trust we have with our customers.

If we don’t have a certain product, I will happily order it or source it. In my opinion, it’s just something that you do to make each customer’s experience in our pharmacy as accommodating and enjoyable as possible. I just love going to work each day. I love community pharmacy.

There is always something to learn in community pharmacy. Even if you have five years or 30 years of experience, there is always something to learn.

How did you find the workshop day and your PATY experience?

Great! I was just like everyone else; a bit nervous, but I didn’t want to think of PATY as a competition, but a way to meet new friends.

I moved to Tasmania all on my own. I knew no one, except my dog, and left all my family behind in Queensland. I had always wanted to relocate to Tasmania, so when my son finished Year 12 he really encouraged me to move. I packed up everything, left my job and moved to Tasmania! So, I have really started from scratch here and a lot of my main social group is people I’ve known through work. I looked at PATY as a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people and make some new friends who also have the same passion as me.

After the workshop, we created a little Facebook group and we’ve been keeping in touch. It’s really all about that connection that you have with one another and sharing our opinions and experiences of community pharmacy. I really enjoyed it and the Guild’s Kathy Gribble was such a passionate and fun facilitator.

The sessions in the workshop were so valuable, particularly the behavioural patterns and conflict resolution. I don’t like conflict and I find I’m not very assertive, so I found it to be incredibly valuable.

Why do you think PATY is important?

I think recognising pharmacy assistants for what they do is really important. It is a really important job that we do. We aren’t just sales assistants and I think sometimes people lose sight of that. I don’t think people realise how much knowledge and experience pharmacy assistants have. We are really building a service-based industry and our customers don’t always understand how much we can offer them.

Even though we’re a small pharmacy, we’re right next door to a big medical centre, so our customer base is very different to a usual pharmacy. We offer a lot of health services, and have a lot of loyal customers who treat us as a valuable health destination. I never just provide the product that a customer came in for, as I like to look at their health needs holistically. I’m always looking for the entire health solution. It’s not just about making more money, as we have a duty of care to improve our customer’s health.

Do you have a favourite area of the pharmacy or somewhere of particular interest?

I’m quite interested in wound care and I’m becoming more interested in the natural health care aspect of pharmacy, like vitamins and supplements.

I really enjoy the health care side of things, and of course, I just love our customers. I love customer service and I love working with people. My worst nightmare is working in a back office with no one to talk to.

Do you have any career goals or objectives?

I’m not really one to climb the career ladder. I’m really happy to just keep going as I’m going, and continue to train others and pass on my knowledge. I really am happy to continue to do what I do.

I have enjoyed being involved in PATY this year, and I hope to be involved again in the future. It’s really been wonderful.