Interview with Jacinta Johnson

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Jacinta Johnson


1. Where/when did you graduate?                
I graduated in 2008 from the University of South Australia


2. What has been your career journey so far?
I started out with my intern year in hospital pharmacy, at Flinders Medical Centre in the south of Adelaide. I stayed on there as a hospital pharmacist in 2010 before heading back to University to undertake a PhD. I undertook my PhD in the pharmacology department at the University of Adelaide, conducting both a clinical trial and some preclinical laboratory-based studies investigating opioids, particularly codeine, and medication overuse headache. During my PhD I continued to practice as a pharmacist, in community pharmacy and in a Drug and Alcohol Services clinic. It was at this time I first started teaching as well, in the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences at UniSA, and in the School of Nursing at the University of Adelaide. I loved teaching, but also wanted to keep in touch with clinical practice, thus once I completed my PhD I continued to work across both settings, in academia and hospital pharmacy. When I first went back to hospital I worked as the High Dependency Unit pharmacist at Flinders, before moving into the Senior Pharmacist - Clinical Educator role over the last year. Soon I will be moving into the new role of Medication Safety Pharmacist, which will be a new adventure again! Another big part of my career has been involvement with our professional bodies, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, and more recently, the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia. I'm currently on the SA/NT Branch Committee for both.


3. What more do you want to achieve in the future?
First and foremost I want to continue to work with the teaching team at UniSA to keep improving the skills and impact of our pharmacy graduates. I also want to get stuck into the Medication Safety role at Flinders in a really collaborative way - I want to see what initiatives are in place elsewhere that could improve safety in our setting, and want to work on our own innovative solutions that we can share as well. More broadly, I know pharmacists have the potential to really boost medicine related health outcomes in so many ways, and I think sometimes our impact is limited by the public’s understanding of what pharmacists can actually do! Thus, in the future I would like work on projects to help increase understanding of the skill set and roles pharmacists can play in maintaining and improving health. I also want to help encourage and mentor as many keen early career pharmacists as possible to get involved in research! I feel planning and conducting research teaches so many transferable skills that are useful in pharmacy practice, in addition to generating data that can help solve problems for patients and can highlight the value of the pharmacy profession too. On a personal level I want to continue working toward an Advanced level of pharmacy practice, so I was particularly excited to see this picking back up in Australia with the launch of the Advanced Practice Collaborative last month.


4. What advice would you give to students?
Make the most of all that your Uni course offers, go along to you classes (face-to-face!), ask your lecturers questions, start discussions with your student peers, get a job in a pharmacy and get involved with your student association AND our professional bodies - the earlier the better! Once you're out in practice, always put the effort into being a good pharmacist, as with most things, the more effort you put in the more you will get back. Put the effort in to double check those things you're not sure about, to have those extra discussions with your patients, to build the relationships with other health professionals, and contribute to the professional bodies that work so hard to support us and further our profession! I think falling in to a pattern of taking short-cuts; convincing yourself of things like 'the dose is probably fine', 'I don't really need to talk to the patient about this', 'the doctor is probably already aware of the risk'.. etc, can be dangerous, not only for our patients, but also our profession more generally. Practicing with that mindset can take away many of the rewarding aspects of our work too, so you can end up providing sub-optimal patient care, reducing trust in our profession and not enjoying your job! Triple Whammy! A great way to counter the risk of falling into this pattern, especially if you're already working under time pressure etc. in your workplace, is to keep in touch with other passionate pharmacists. Being around others who are passionate can really help to re-inflate you and maintain or restore your own passion for the job.


5. What is your favourite thing about pharmacy/your job?
Tricky question. I love so many aspects! I love it when I see pharmacy students apply something I have taught them previously, I'm still a bit amazed when it dawns on me that I have helped to shape that future pharmacist! Hearing student feedback is really rewarding too - I know it can be extremely overwhelming stepping into the world of pharmacy, so it’s great to hear when I have helped them to navigate that process in some small way. I love the research side of what I do too! It's such a thrill to see a project move from a casual conversation about an idea, to a formal proposal, extensive data collection and analysis process and finally to a publication or presentation that actually has an influence on outcomes for patients.


6. Were you involved with the National Australian Pharmacy Students' Association (NAPSA) and/or your local branch? What benefit did this have?
As a student, while I always was involved with SAPSA events, I was never an office-bearer. I'm quite an introvert, and back then I had yet to realise that you don't need to be the loudest person in the room to be a leader! I'm not sure exactly when, but at some point that changed and now I love the range of leadership roles I now hold. I went to a number of NAPSA conferences too, which provided lots of valuable experiences and were of course loads of fun! I have always appreciated having SAPSA and NAPSA support during my undergraduate experience; I have so many hilarious memories and made so many life-long friends at these events! I think these organisations make a huge difference to life as a pharmacy student, and really make the pharmacy program stand out vs. many of the other allied health degrees.


7. Would you ever consider leaving the profession?
Given I'm so passionate about increasing the impact of the pharmacy profession on the health of our community, and the pharmacy profession itself offers such a broad range of roles that I can't see myself changing paths at this stage. I'll always keep an open mind to new opportunities, but I think even if I wasn't working in a 'pharmacist role' per se, I would still be involved with the profession in some way!


8. What challenges have you faced?
For me getting the hang of effective self-management has been a challenge. As I work for two separate employers, concurrently run a number of research projects and am involved with a bunch of other activities within the profession, I need to manage my time carefully so that I don't let anyone down. It can be really challenging when I have multiple tight deadlines all at the same time - time critical activities in one role will not be considered by management/stakeholders etc. in my other roles, so all of the prioritisation and balancing comes down to me, which can be stressful.

8.1. How have you overcome them?
I've now found myself some really great mentors, both with experience in balancing multiple roles at once. They continue to be really helpful in taking the stress out of having a lot on my plate and teaching me to increase my capacity by working more efficiently. I also have a new policy - don't commit to any additional responsibilities unless I talk it through with 'a responsible adult' first! Although I do sometimes find it hard to stick to this rule as there are so many exciting things happening in the world of pharmacy that I just want to be a part of!


9. How has your perception of pharmacy changed since you were a student?
I'd say I now have a much greater understanding of both the pressures and the opportunities facing the profession. I see the politics involved now, that I was largely oblivious to as a student, and I see it can be challenging to deliver the service you would like to provide, with the time and resources available. I can see there are so many things we already do that are critical for patient health, but many more things we can contribute to within the health system too - we just need motivated and passionate pharmacists to drive the profession in a direction that will provide the most benefit for our community. My perception of pharmacy professional bodies has certainly changed since I was a student too. As a student when thinking about "what do I get out of my membership" I would think about basics like CPD resources… but now I understand there's so much more to it than that. These days I feel if you think the organisation should exist, you should consider being a member, as without members these organisations would not exist to support us. We would have no one to promote what we do to ensure we receive the funding we need and no one to drive advancement - immunization is a good example, our professional bodies are responsible for the changes in legislation that allow pharmacists to vaccinate, and all pharmacists benefit.