young woman stands in front of large mining truck in outback Australia
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Pharmacy in the Pilbara

Shaylee Mills – Early career pharmacist based in Karratha, WA

Imagine this: as a healthcare professional in rural Australia, you’ve just returned from a weekend getaway boating, swimming, snorkelling. As the new week begins, you’re gearing up for a drive to a remote area, ready to join a team of other health professionals in delivering a range of healthcare services to the community…

That is my current reality working as rural pharmacist!

In 2023, I began my career as a registered pharmacist in Karratha, Western Australia. The Pilbara region is known for its large onshore and offshore mining industry, incredible landscapes and Aboriginal culture. I knew it as a place with many opportunities for pharmacists and a fun-spirited Pharmacy team, having visited there on placement as a student.

The Pilbara is quite populated for a remote area, largely due to mining, however healthcare resources and workforce are scarce meaning that seeking healthcare can be very challenging. Community pharmacists are some the most accessible health professionals in our country, especially in rural areas, in which the Pharmacy 777 group has established teams across Port Hedland, Karratha and Carnarvon. It feels like one big happy “pharmily” working together to improve the health of rural communities with medication management and pharmacy services.

As a rural pharmacist, you are challenged to think outside the boundaries of typical practice. Not only do you come across unique clinical scenarios and treatment protocols but your problem-solving skills grow significantly as you gain exposure to logistical barriers as well; what happens when medicines don’t arrive? How quickly can we order stock? What other health services can we utilise for help? How do I get medicines to a patient who lives may hours away?

These situations arise because of access to care challenges. As a means of increasing healthcare access, Pharmacy 777 have implemented a range of unique pharmacy services which required upskilling of the teams. This includes services targeting obstructive sleep apnoea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mental health, medicines for industrial ships and vessels as well as servicing the local Aboriginal Health Service (AHS).

Being an on-site pharmacist at the AHS is an extremely interprofessional role where I have the pleasure of working with a multitude of different health professionals who also practice onsite. This model of care truly fosters community engagement and multidisciplinary practice. It’s been most rewarding getting to know the patients and help them on their health journey via collaboration with patients, their families, other healthcare professionals and established services in the region.

In addition to my involvement in the delivery of these expanded scope services, I have also had the unique opportunity to work in other niche areas I have a real passion for such as student placement liaison, social media and rural health advocacy.

I currently share my experience as a rural pharmacist via social media to promote rural pharmacy as a rewarding career and start meaningful conversations around increasing the rural health workforce which ultimately could help to improve patient access to care. Rural communities need more health professionals, in which the 777 team support me in every way to get this message out in the open. I am very grateful to be able to share my experience with so many people because I never imagined my career trajectory would lead me to where I am today. That’s the beauty of taking a leap of faith into the unknown and choosing a path that certainly may not be the easiest choice. I cannot encourage young health professionals enough to take opportunities to try rural healthcare. There is so much impact to be made!

For more information on what it’s like working in rural Australia you can find me on:

Instagram @pharmacistsoutbush

TikTok @heyitsshay___

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