Sydney pharmacy clinical placement in the Torres Strait Islands

As part of the course curriculum for the Master of Pharmacy and Bachelor of Pharmacy programs at the University of Sydney, students undertake clinical placements offered in metropolitan and remote regions. Clinical placements allow students to work across a range of practical settings within the pharmaceutical industry, and apply their knowledge and skills to real world issues.

In March 2016, two final-year Pharmacy students, Simarjit and Subha, visited Thursday Island in the Torres Strait Islands for a one-week clinical placement. Being a remote region, their placement came with a unique set of challenges and rewards.

Sydney pharmacy clinical placement in the Torres Strait Islands
Pharmacy students Simarjit and Subha (Photo credit: University of Sydney)
Their experience—from getting to Thursday Island over the course of an eight-hour journey, involving two flights, a bus and ferry—through to leaving early due to a cyclone warning, was educational and meaningful. Both students had the rare opportunity to work in the only pharmacy and hospital in the whole of the Torres Strait Islands, both of which service 19 inhabited surrounding islands.

Due to the geographically dispersed landscape and limited access to resources, providing service and medication to the widely spread residents is no easy feat. The process led the students to have a new appreciation for their field of study.

“Our experience made us realise the importance of our role as pharmacists. Medications were packed on a daily basis for deliveries to outer islands, and every Friday a pharmacist took a helicopter to visit islands requiring home medicine reviews or urgent deliveries,” said Simarjit.

Working at the only pharmacy on the island that stocked medication was a big responsibility for the University of Sydney students.

“We constantly double-checked our work to ensure that our input and actions positively impacted the patients’ lives, as we wanted to provide the best possible care.”

Even though Simarjit and Subha have worked in community pharmacies for the last three years, their trip gave them an unplanned learning experience. While on a shift at the Thursday Island Hospital, a cyclone warning was issued and both students quickly put into practice the safety procedures and actions to take during a natural disaster by hospital pharmacists. Before they were transported back to Sydney safely, they were also reminded that as health professionals they had a duty of care towards the population during disasters.

“The entire experience made us fully appreciate ourselves as future pharmacists. We realised that we truly are an integral part of the healthcare system.”

This clinical placement, and others, is made possible thanks to supportive pharmacists who are eager to share their experience and skills with students. Thursday Island has a number of pharmacists who are University of Sydney alumni and we are thankful and proud of their dedication, degree of professionalism and commitment to improving health in regional areas.

Bachelor of Pharmacy Program at Sydney Pharmacy School

The Bachelor of Pharmacy program provides students with the core skills and knowledge required for the effective delivery of pharmaceutical care and the ability to proceed to research. Students will study the chemical, physical, pharmaceutical, and pharmacological properties of medicinal substances and the application of these in the pharmacy profession. The Faculty of Pharmacy has an enviable national and international reputation that means students will study and interact with world-renowned academics and enjoy access to best practice teaching laboratories and cutting-edge technology.

Program: Bachelor of Pharmacy
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intake: March
Duration: 4 years
Application deadline: It is recommended that candidates apply as early as possible to provide time for the pre-departure process.

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