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Stephanie’s view: How did I get here?

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2017 Pharmacy Assistant of the Year, Stephanie Meiklejohn reflects on her journey which saw her winning the Award

Who would have thought that relocating to Nhill, Victoria, with a population of 2000 people would see me discovering my passion for pharmacy?

If you’d have told me last April (when I was nominated) that I would be the next Pharmacy Assistant of the Year (PATY), I never would’ve believed it. In fact, I was overjoyed to be nominated, and chosen from such a huge number of candidates, never mind winning! Nevertheless, I am thoroughly excited and energised to be representing Australian pharmacy assistants for the next year.

Winning at the PATY nationals on the Gold Coast was incredible, and the prizes were extremely generous. In addition, one particular prize certainly caught my eye – the opportunity to write a monthly column for this magazine! I believe this is an excellent way for me to channel my passion for pharmacy and inspire other pharmacy assistants all over Australia. First, though, I would like to talk a little bit about where I am from, and why I love what I do.

I was born in Queensland, my family relocated to Nhill, Victoria, when I was 11. Nhill, for those of you who don’t know it, has an approximate population of 2000 people, and is halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide. We have a primarily agricultural population, and home to Luv-a-Duck (a company supplying duck products all over the world). Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in our population, with our town welcoming refugees from Burma. Although there isn’t a large shopping plaza, or an endless supply off places to dine out, Nhill has plenty of opportunities for those who are willing to seek them out.

In the beginning, it was quite a difficult move for me: leaving behind friends, changing schools, and changing climates!  However, I soon settled, and after I left school, I was offered a job at the local pharmacy. It did not take long for me to begin building a rapport with the customers and I soon realised how much I enjoyed helping people to manage their health and improve their lives. With my own Nan and Pa several thousand kilometres away, I began to treat the elderly customers as my own grandparents. This was something that made me look forward to going to work each day.

But as ever, working in pharmacy is not always sunshine and rainbows. For example, I had to learn how to deal with some of the negative aspects of the role. I struggled to find a way to manage unhappy customers, who were often sick, tired or a combination of both. Once, after a particularly difficult exchange with a customer, I was talking to my manager and asked for his advice about managing things the next time. His advice? “Make them smile.” Now, I love a challenge, but I knew this one wasn’t going to be easy. Nevertheless, I worked hard at it and over the next few months, each time this customer came in, I put myself out there and bit by bit, began to know more about who they were and what they liked. Eventually, I got the smile! Although, this was more than six years ago—even now when I see this customer coming to collect his medication—I am reminded of that challenge! After I’ve had a chat about how he is going, and what he’s been up to in the past few weeks, I think back to how much I gained by simply taking an interest in this person’s life.

While customer service is one of my specialties, I have been fortunate enough over the past few years to be involved with many areas of the pharmacy. From packing dosage administration aids to hosting makeup makeovers, doing town deliveries to managing the dispensary—I’ve had a go at almost everything.

In fact, I used to believe that as I worked in rural pharmacy that my worldview and experience would have been limited. But I have since found out, after chatting to the other state finalists during the PATY workshops, this isn’t the case at all—working in a rural pharmacy has actually given me greater experience of the full gamut of pharmacy services and customer interactions.

I feel incredibly lucky to have a career, which I honestly love because I get to take an active role in helping people. I enjoy talking to my customers and keeping up to date with what is happening in their lives. I love that I can help a customer choose their prenatal vitamins, and then a little while later help them find the best nappy rash cream, and then before I know it I’m asking them how their child’s first week at school was. We get to help people full circle in pharmacy, and for that reason, I believe we are truly blessed.

So I really hope that I can use my passion for pharmacy to inspire all of us to do better and try harder. This can result in greater work satisfaction for yourself, along with improved performance for your pharmacy and outstanding customer service for everyone who visits your store.

This is an edited extract of an article which appeared in the February issue of PS magazine.


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