Placement in Australia - Pharmacy Edition

Last July, I flew to Melbourne to experience a semester abroad as an exchange student. During those 5 months, I had the opportunity to spend one week in a community pharmacy, and one week in a hospital pharmacy, to learn the ropes of what pharmacists do in their daily working life.

Community Placement

The community pharmacy was located in Richmond, a small suburb to the east of Melbourne. I honestly thought students wouldn’t be given much responsibilities and it would be a pretty easy week, but I had no idea what was in store for me. Just on the first day, my partner and I were already overwhelmed with the seemingly easy, but tedious steps in dispensing medicines to patients. In order to prevent any error in dispensing, we had to be meticulous, checking all the details to make sure they’re right, and looking up information about the medicine to make sure it is safe and suitable for the patients’ needs. 

Source: Inside Retail Australia

Given our lack of experience, there were obviously lots of patients waiting to get their prescriptions filled, and what normally would’ve taken 5 minutes took 15 in our hands. Our preceptors, who were supervising us, and also the patients were understanding and also encouraging, which personally made me feel worse for slowing them down. We were also given the chance to observe pharmacists calling up doctors about errors they identified, or if they’re concerned about a particular medicine. 

Hospital Placement

The hospital placement was at the end of the semester, located in the Geelong suburb. As it was summer for Australia in December, the increasing temperatures and the service disruptions were reminiscent of my time in Malaysia. Despite the bush fires and train cancellations, I had the most fun in this placement because of the knowledge I’ve gained, and also the friendships I've fostered with the peers who were also placed in Geelong. Given my prior experience, or lack thereof, I was determined to excel this week, and leave a good impression to my preceptors. 

Source: Hospital Stays

Eight of us were split into pairs and given different departments to shadow for a week. As it was our first hospital placement, our roles were mostly observational in nature, but my preceptor had confidence in our abilities and allowed us to take on more responsibilities while he supervised. We communicated with patients upon admission and upon discharge, and counselled them on any medications that they will be going home with.  One notable thing I did was calling a community pharmacy and asked for their dispensing records in order to verify information given by the patient. As we followed our preceptor around, we also attended discharge meetings, which proved the necessity of communication between different health care professionals.

These placements allowed me to get an idea of my future career, and  without a doubt were the highlights of my exchange programme and I would love to spend more time back in Australia.

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