Podcast Transcript: Joyce McSwan - Clinical Director of GCPHN Persistent Pain Program | Managing Director of PainWISE

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Welcome to Your Pharmacy Career Podcast, proudly brought to you by Raven's Recruitment, Australia's leading specialist pharmacy recruitment agency. The podcast series is being created to shine a light on the diverse and inspiring careers of Australia's pharmacists. Each episode will focus on the varied career opportunities within the pharmacy industry by exploring the career paths taken by leaders in the fields of Community Pharmacy, Hospital, Industry, Government and Professional Organizations. Careers never follow a defined path. Everyone's story is different and unique in their own way. The podcast series will help you discover the world of opportunities that exist and reveal pathways to achieve your dreams and aspirations. Whether you are a pharmacy student, early career pharmacist, or simply looking for a change at any stage of your career, the podcast series is designed to help you navigate ways into a career and a life that you love. Your host of the podcast series is Allie Xu. Allie, herself a pharmacist, is now the founder of Global Pharmacy Entrepreneurs and a passionate advocate for pharmacists to grow, innovate, excel, and make a lasting impact in the world. It's now over to our host, Allie Xu.

[Allie Xu] Hi, Joyce. How are you today?

[Joyce McSwan] Hi, everyone. Hi, Allie. Very well, thanks.

[Allie Xu] Thank you so much for joining me. I'm so excited I get to talk to you, especially in this really special month. It’s International Women's month. And this year, the UN theme for International Women's month is, “Women in leadership achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” Think as a woman leader, you're out in the pharmacy world and it's the perfect time for us to have this discussion and learn about your journey, your pharmacy career journey. And we're here really to share with pharmacy students and early career pharmacists and pharmacists: how did you create your successful pharmacy career?

[Joyce McSwan] Probably, yeah — first of all, thank you for having me, very kind of you to kind of you know, have me especially in this very important month. My daughter, so happens to be born on the eighth of March, which is, yes—

[Allie Xu] [Laughing] Happy birthday to your daughter.

[Joyce McSwan] National Women’s Day itself, so that I think says a lot. So it's very exciting. Look, I think, to be really honest, out of just pure restlessness, I would say. I was incredibly restless. And I still am constantly restless. As a clinician. You know, I probably– when I became a pharmacist, I never really saw myself as a pharmacist, I was a clinician. So I was kind of part of the clinical healthcare system and I so happened to have expertise in the medication side of it. But ultimately, at the end of the day, and at the end of every day, I would sort of almost check in on whether I was being a patient advocate or not. Patient advocacy was always what I signed up in clinical work for. And I just knew that, okay, medication was just a facilitator of that. So probably I was a patient advocate first, I was a, you know, clinician second, and then I was actually a pharmacist third. So that was kind of how I always saw myself or my ethos of practice. Yeah. And then basically, purely out of restlessness, I saw some gaps in the system as I became more experienced as a pharmacist. And then I think, you know, as most restless people do, they try and find solutions. And I basically started by– without, truly, there was no platform to enable to help me to do what I wanted to do. And I'm obviously in the pain management space. But pharmacists were very– they weren't involved very much in a pain management space, but yet I could do so much because I could see opioids being such a problem. And where were we going to go beyond that? So I started to build castles in my mind, in terms of envisioning what it could look like if I was given a chance. So I think that's where it started. Yeah.

[Allie Xu] Mmm, wow. Wow, you have touched on really, really important points. You know, you said patient care and then clinician and pharmacists is third. As a clinician we have a different way of approach. If we’re just pharmacists — and people always think pharmacists only count pills or and they give medication, that's it, that’s over. And I think that's why we struggle so much, is we can do so much. We feel like we're playing so small. But when we think from a clinician point of view, perspective, and patient care perspective, the world is our oyster.

[Joyce McSwan] Absolutely, yeah.

[Allie Xu] We can go out and create and find solutions to take care of people in the community.

[Joyce McSwan] Yeah! Exactly. Yeah. So that was always my, always my check in in going, “Have I advocated for you? Have I clinically, you know, behaved or presented as a clinician would?” And then, “Have I used my craft — which is knowledge in medication, which a pharmacist does — Have I done that for you?” But it's a third, actually, it's not the first. Because by being holistic — and it's been sort of the guiding principles of how I've always worked.

[Allie Xu] So can you take us back? Tell us about your story. Where did you grow up and when and how did you decide to pursue a pharmacy career?

[Joyce McSwan] I think I always knew I was going to be in a medical career of some kind. From as young as I was, both my parents are clinicians so I was always involved in their conversation, overhearing the politics of healthcare and what have you. So I always knew I would be in healthcare somehow. My probably passion for patient care and probably to a certain slant on pain management was pretty much from my mum. From as young as I was, probably three or four, my mother got injured at work as a nurse, she was a nurse. She was very, you know, sort of laid down for ages. Like all through my childhood I was probably helping to care for her. You know, I'd come home from school and she would essentially not be able to, you know, get up and do things for us. So it was very, you know, my sister and I, very independent from young, and I could see that despite her so called disabilities, she did recover definitely in her own way. Never fully but she coped so well. She coped so well and still ran a wonderful household, gave us all the opportunities. So I could see how well managed she was. So it was kind of, that told me that even though you're sick or you've got illnesses or disabilities, whatever, it wasn't going to define her. Plus I think she had a bit of a personality that was never, you know, never lie down and die. So she was probably very big influence on that. And then from there, I think I got involved in sort of a lot of workplaces, year 10 where you go to workplaces and you get exposed to different, you know, different areas. I was, you know, again doing time with some of those services and got really inspired by some people in there. And I think that's why mentors is so important. Like as a student, you know, find a mentor. It doesn't have to be your immediate working partner or working person at work. Sometimes you just don't like the people you work with. [Chuckling] But, you know, find external mentors that will, yeah, assist you through your journey. It doesn't have to be a pharmacist it can be from outside, but yeah, find a mentor because I think mentoring is so helpful. And it's also helpful for mentors to give that of themselves. I've mentored many young GPs, many young pharmacists, you know, many young clinicians, and yeah, it's very rewarding.

[Allie Xu] Wow. So exactly how did you find these mentors. I think a lot of students – when I was a student, all I did was go into Uni and study. And how did you find mentors outside your everyday life and how do you know which mentor is suitable for you?

[Joyce McSwan] Yeah, I must say in my time it was really hard. I was probably quite shy, as well to be honest. Believe it or not. You wouldn't believe it now. But, you know, my early life in the industry I was very shy, you know. And I, yeah, I found it quite hard to find good mentors to be really honest. Because I probably, I had, you know, one or two key ones — and that was all you really need — and it was through probably work and it was through a lot of observing, you know. Observe. Watch. And watching, you know, how people behave in the industry is really important and then you tend to gravitate to people that you are maybe a bit more alike with, you know. Well start with the fact that you like them, for a start, and then, you know, whether it's something that, you know, inspires you. But I think mentors can come from – it doesn't all have to be within the career it can be even outside the career, you know? Might be even a lawyer might be even a family friend. But do get a mentor. I think it’s really really helpful for early career people because it gives you somewhere to go and debrief that sometimes isn't, you know, available in your family or even in perspective – different industries have different perspectives as well. So it's very helpful not to stick sometimes within the industry as well. So my two key mentors one, was a financier, like a financial person from the accounting background, you know. And just how they thought, how they talked. And then another mentor was within the industry that I have and still have, who was a colleague. And we kind of, you know, kind of grew from there. And then another mentor was actually a GP colleague of mine, and we kind of co-mentored, you know, at the time when we were meeting each other. And sometimes just have you know, the ball that you bounce with. You want to play ball, you got to have a ball that you bounce with. And it's just having that bouncy ball. Yeah.

[Allie Xu] Wow, yeah, thank you. No, yeah, a mentor is so important. And I think it's great you're acting as our mentor right now sharing your wisdom and your experience with us through this podcast. It’s great, thank you.

[Joyce McSwan] Yeah, I'm more than happy to – I mean, mentoring is part of, you know, just part of the giving back of the service. I don't think there needs to be, you know, you don't pay for a mentor, you can’t bribe them. It's got to be very much from the heart. And yeah, I love mentoring young career pharmacists. And I think it in this – because I've also walked the journey of innovation — and Australia, probably, I must say, my journey really doesn't teach someone how to innovate, “What does innovation really look like? You know, what is it? What are the key ingredients?” I think that's really important. Now, I've been, you know, obviously, using a lot of my talent, time, opportunity, as they come about, to kind of share with people what even innovation means. Because everyone can have a good idea. But good ideas don't just, you know, sort of pop out of a box that require a specific, you know, implementation journey. And that's not often taught. So I believe that we have a lot of good ideas in young people's minds and heads. And you know, and what I used to sit in my office to dream about — but then I think what I was able to do with a couple of good opportunities was to implement that. At the time, nobody taught me how, so it was a lot of finding your way through. Could have probably been faster had I had someone mentoring me, but that wasn't really available. I don't think it's really still available very much, you know, you kind of bit by trial and error. And sometimes you give up, you know?

[Allie Xu] Wow, when you said there is just — Can you share with us a few points of how did you turn that idea, those ideas into the actual program, all the things that we've created so far?

[Joyce McSwan] Absolutely. And certainly, please stop me because this can turn into a day's conversation. [Laughing] I've got a lot to say about innovation. The first thing — and I always reflect about this, actually, question that you asked, in fact, I have conversations with myself and ask myself these questions. But the first thing was to adjust how I defined work. How I actually defined work. That was very important. Because work in innovation is very different. And you know, innovation is like a hobby that you have to work on all the time. But then because it's usually a part of you and a part of your daily work; I had to stop thinking about working nine to five, as you know, if I was to be an innovator. I actually didn't know I was an innovator until about five years into the journey. And what I have become and that was quite a hard question to ask, “What is this,” you know, “what have I done?” And so first of all, you've got to adjust how — if you want to be an innovator, if you've got good ideas in your head that are just busting to get out, you've got to not worry about working nine to five. You have to, you know, you have to be working on it all the time. I think that's number one. That's number one. Because people who say they want to innovate, and they've got great ideas, and they're only able to dedicate nine to five, then it's gonna be a very long time before they'll see that idea come to fruition. Alright, so. So that's why I say you have to redefine work. So work may become hobby. Maybe just you, you're not– I often say to people, “No, work is not what I do. My work is who I am.” So when it's who you are, it's just a natural part of you, you know? So that you can work on it all the time. And you don't have to be feeling guilty that you're working. You're just doing who you are. And I think that's number one. Yeah, yeah.

[Allie Xu] Wow. Wow, that's really a different perspective. And I think it really turned things around as looking at the work we're doing every day. Like you go into pharmacy job, if we’re really passionate about this, if we're really passionate about this then actually we'll spend more time on it, like it's not defined with that nine to five.

[Joyce McSwan] Absolutely. So how I started that even when it was defined nine to five for me, back then, what I did was, because work was what I did, and but it was actually more who I was, and because I enjoyed it so much I would go to work — so to put it practically for your audience — like I would go to work and I would serve the patients and I would, you know, go through my, you know, patient advocacy clinician, “hey I'm a pharmacist.” So I would go through those three points just naturally and then I would almost go, “What else can I do a little bit above and beyond, because it's not what I do?” Sure it's what I got paid for from that nine to five, but then I wanted to be more than that because that that keeps me passionate you know. So I, in those days I actually saw and identified the gap that the pharmacy assistants were always quite unsupported. And so I created like a pharmacy assistant group. It was called, “PAG” It was called “The PAG Group.” I still remember, PAG, so I called them all “PAGs.” And so we had The PAG Group, and PAG group meant that I gave them training. So I would give them spot training every time I had a chance. So if we had some downtime I would go to even a young pharmacy assistant and I'll go, “Here come to have a look at this section. What can you tell me about this section?” So it was just part of my, you know, my giving back my, you know, sort of that passion. And then they learned something, I felt good that I imparted knowledge, and then they served the customers better or the patients better. So for me I sort of probably in my small way, I kind of started that innovation even within a nine to five role. And of course look the bosses loved it, you know there was initiative seen. I wasn't doing it for those reasons, but they, you know, my ranks went up. You know so, and again it really wasn't for those reasons but it's always noticed. So I learnt very quickly that if I want to be an innovator, if I want to stand out, if I believe in what I'm doing, I would stop my nine to five mindset. And yeah while, you know, you need to sleep and do that so it's nice to have boundaries of course, but it doesn't mean that you can't optimize that time that you're there with innovation, you know. Because let’s face it I think we all have downtime at work, you know we, all have downtime, you know? That sort of small chat time can be turned into innovation.

[Allie Xu] Wow thank you so much for sharing that and think you have really inspired a lot of us pharmacists and we're working nine to five and, you know feeling like, wanting to do something more but not sure how. And, you know, we need to break that boundary there's no nine to five if you're really passionate about wanting to do it, just go and do it I think.

[Joyce McSwan] Yeah so absolutely. Of course you know you got to rest and make sure you self care and all those things. And sometimes you have to have a longer journey. Everyone's in a different part of their lives you know you have demands and family demands. So of course you know if you have a very specific passion that doesn't belong to pharmacy or is slightly outside of that, then you have to start you know between 9pm and 10pm, that's where you put that little space to work on your hobby ideas, you know. But that's I think where, if you then get stuck mentoring is really helpful then, to go. “I've got this grand plan idea how do I turn it into something?” The mentoring can be very helpful to help you to hopefully put that idea into proper implementation or opportunity. But it is a hard work process, but you don't call it hard work, because it's passion. So it's enjoyable, you know, inspiring, you know. It's sweating with inspiration.

[Allie Xu] Yeah, I love it, I love it. So when you say, “mentoring,” what's the best way to approach a mentor that you think can really help you?

[Joyce McSwan] Totally so number one if you find someone that you think, “Oh gee, I don't mind them, I like them, you know. I gravitate to what they're saying. Yeah that rang a bell with me,” I mean start there. Got to start there, okay? If you hate everything you heard then that's not the right mentor for you. But if you kind of went, “Oh, that really–” then just simply approach them. And, you know, be brave. I could have been braver in my career but be brave and sort of just contact them and just say, “Look I've really noticed that,” or, “That really spoke to me,” you know, “I'd like to see if you can mentor me,” you know, “Or if not can I tell you what I'm doing and what I'm passionate about, do you have any other people you can align me with?” Because what happens is usually like will attract like. You know, people a bit more forward in their career will usually have already networks where they really have got key people they gravitate to. It may not be them, but it may be – or they may not have the time and that's okay too, but they may have other people that they'll go, “You know, from what you're telling me that you're interested in, hey, Joe, my friend would be perfect. Let me connect you both,” you know? It comes by that word recommendation, I always try and go to because that's really useful. And honestly, anybody who's usually approached that way would never, I'd be very surprised if they ever said no, you know? And then if they did, well they’re not the right mentor, and it's fine, you know? And explore broadly. Explore broadly. Be okay with exploring outside your own industry, you know, if that's what it takes. A few other tips is look at the value, you know, listen to the value of what they're saying, you know, do their values align with your values? That's very helpful, you know? Are their ethics similar to yours? You're not gonna know it all, they might take a couple cups of coffee. But yeah, just also listen back. So it's not also about what you want to get, get, get, but what you're also sort of able to give. And it's that sort of match, you know, trying to see if it's a one all match. And just give it a go. Give it a go. You want to find the right one, always, first stop, and that's okay. That is okay. And you may even have a few. And that's great, too. Yeah.

[Allie Xu] Wow. Thank you. Thank you so much for that. And we know that in your own work, you've created so many unique programs, innovations, like Painwise Pharmacy professional service program, and also the Persistent Pain program, Turn Pain to Gain program, and more. So what's your vision for your career? And what projects are you working on now?

[Joyce McSwan] Well, I think I sat back and analysed this, funny enough for you to ask this question, probably about two or three weeks ago, because I've, you know, really looked at my career in the past. And to be really honest, I will, because work is who I am, and not what I do, for me personally, I have no intentions to retire ever. Ever, ever, ever. Lock me to this desk. So I probably have still, as much as health will give me — and that's when a lot of self care comes in — probably good 30 years yet, you know? And I'm so excited by having 30 years yet. In fact, I was like, “Only 30? Oh, my God.” [Laughing] Again, because I redefined work back ages ago. So, yes, you've got to still, you know, do your bread and butter job. And that's fine, because some of you guys are definitely in that. But with for me with 30 years ahead, you know, I hope to open as many opportunities as possible. You know, I hope to look at where we can go with more health programs for pharmacy, properly evidence based programs. I hope to support the industry with that, because I think from all our learned experience, we've got probably a really good framework, you know. I hope to have more partners that are obviously aligned with that in that area. I hope to hopefully, you know, look at other areas of healthcare, not just in pain, we've been doing some preparations in mental health work. I would love to help, you know, young young pharmacists, young career, bloom their own innovations. I think a lot of ideas are in people's heads not yet to come. And I think they've got solutions, which me singly wouldn't, you know. So facilitating that would be great. Yeah. So with, yeah, multi project, multi stream, wherever the journey wants to take us, we'll go, you know? Yeah, so I'm quite excited.

[Allie Xu] Wow I am so excited for the future of pharmacy and what you know, it holds for us. Anything is possible once we change that mindset. And so there's no boundary, so the world is our oyster, we can create. I think what I've heard is, from you is, we're not just implementers anymore. We're not just implementing what the script says and dispensing a pill, we're creating a whole new space creating healthcare projects or programs.

[Joyce McSwan] Yeah, and you can start in the everyday life, like some of you guys might be sitting there going, “Oh, very well and good,” you know, “You're kind of like not in the pharmacy, you're not – you don't know what I have to go through every day. I've just got the script looking at me, you know, and then out goes the other side, you know.” But I think even in that moment, you can be creative, you know, stick an extra little brochure in there that you wouldn't normally do, you know? Ask the patient, “Can I call you in a few days?” And you know, innovate that point. Because you normally wouldn't do it. If a doctor rang you and kind of gave you some good feedback or had some questions that, you know, you can say, “Hey how about we meet for coffee? Like I'd love to be curiously knowing what you're thinking and how I can support you.” Just go a little bit above and beyond. And that is innovation in itself. It's a seed. It's a starting of the seed of it. Once you once you get a taste of it or confidence grows, “Actually that was fabulous,” then you feel like you've removed a couple of bricks and then it just, and that confidence, and it really starts here. It’s here. You don't got to wait for it to come to you, it starts here. This is the only limiter. And it's so powerful, so powerful. So now any project anything that comes, I'm like, “Yeah sure let's take a look.” But know that the journey will be a journey and the end is usually different from the start. So you've got that. Be okay with that and yet then it's just a discovery, you know, discovery journey. And again some of the members of the audience also, because, you know money always comes back, and there are two commodities – actually just quickly, these are the other two things you have to get through your own mindset. One is how you define work. Second is the trading commodities that you have. Meaning we've got money as the trade and the other major commodity is time. So those are your trading commodities. If you don't have money, trade time. Don’t have time, trade money, all right? They're the only two commodities and if you can use those two well nothing's impossible.

[Allie Xu] Wow. Wow. I'm sure our audience want you to sign off, ask you to be their mentors. [Laughing]

[Joyce McSwan] Well I'm more than humble if people were to ask me to do that, more than humbled that. I have a lot of time for – because I know I'm not going to be the solution for everything. I know, you know, some of us are not going to be solutions. I think the solutions lie out there. It's not, you know, we just have to facilitate that, solutions. And if we don't facilitate the solutions how are solutions going to come? You know, and unfortunately reinventing the wheel or starting again from scratch, you know, you don’t want 15 years on and, go “Hey I now can tell you how to innovate,” you know. You kind of don't want to have someone to have to walk that journey, because usually people give up. Usually people give up. I've been very fortunate to have family behind me who understand my journey of innovation. So I'm not a singular product, my family, my children, my husband, we work as a team to allow me to do my innovations. So I’m very fortunate about that as well. And that's also a key ingredient. I mean, if there's truly there's an expressions of interest for me to run an innovation series I'm more than happy to do that. [Laughing] ‘Cause there are truly some key ingredients. Key ingredients that I feel in reflection are so necessary and that maybe are not well understood. If it was understood how many more solutions can we get from the future people that are to come.

[Allie Xu] Mm. Wow it is so needed because, you know, speaking to pharmacists, you know, finding other people outside of Australia, UK, US, everybody has been looking for this wanting to create a new program and project or wanting to find a new way but don't know how. Everybody is looking for that pathway, exactly what you've said. So wow, we need you, Joyce. So what's your vision for the future of pharmacy what are some opportunities of growth you see in the pharmacy industry?

[Joyce McSwan] Well I think pharmacy has truly proven itself in the last two years in Australia, through our, you know, bushfires, through floods, natural disasters through COVID we have honestly stood there. And I can only you know really really praise all my colleagues who have been out there rain or sunshine you know patiently copping, no doubt, abuse as well, being stressed. I've seen it, I've heard it firsthand. We have truly, I feel, as a community group of pharmacists and even obviously hospital pharmacists and industry pharmacists but probably more so our community pharmacist is have stood out because of the circumstances of the times, but all of us, I think, are very grateful for how we have all stood out. And because of that, I feel that pharmacists have an incredibly bright future. We do have to make sure we are skilled, and that we’re clinically capable. So we must continue to keep our clinical capabilities there, you know, so that our knowledge of things, whether it's COVID, whether it's you know, migraine, whether anything new out there, whether it's cannabis, we've got to make sure that we are as scientifically informed as possible. Obviously, people like myself, try to provide, you know, modules, education, and so on to make your life easier, so that you can, you know, you can sort of have a concentrated dose in a short amount of time, given everyone's time poor. So obviously, that's my responsibility in what I do. But that said, if we are capably sound, and current, then I think we can help the health system a lot. As I said, first being patient advocates, second being clinician within a healthcare system. And then obviously, third, within our scope of being a pharmacist and the medication work that we can do. So I think we're reasonably limitless within our scope, I mean. You know, I don't mean, we want to be doctors. We don't, we don’t wanna be specialists, we're not. You know, but within our scope of primary care, which is still a high percentage of where pharmacists are employed, we can impact that. Hopefully, workplaces are there to facilitate that for us. That's, of course, always hard. You know, the workplace has to appreciate that as well. But workplaces are also made of who? Pharmacists. So again, if we've got pharmacists with the right mindset, and grow that well, so that even you are corporate, in a brand store, even if you are, you know, the pharmacist in charge in a brand store, or a non-branded store, whatever, you're you've got that similar, you know, high quality clinical knowledge to start off with. And being able to, you know, lower all your shields and guards and be able to reach out to the other allied health and GP networks. That's where I think we'll get our greatest strength. I believe that the government are very trusting of that. I can see through their fundings and, you know, through their alliances with our different key state bodies, the Guild, the PSA. I'm, you know, hopeful that truly, the government do see our role, especially last two years, as being very critical in the healthcare system. So I don't think we – I think we've proven some of that, you know. I think the next step is to making sure that we live up to that, clinically, as a workforce. You know, that we don't get – and that's why I think mentoring so important, because we don't get cynical when we have good mentors. We know, you know – sometimes our workplaces may not allow us to do that. That's the workplace, but at least have people outside of that to be able to adjust and counteract the negative sometimes voice that might come. Because if we all don't get our mindsets too affected, we can ride through, you know, and be clinically able and ready to take on the roles that we can be.

[Allie Xu] Wow, wow. Thank you so much for sharing that. Yeah. So we'll have to equip ourselves with clinical skills and continue education.

[Joyce McSwan] Yeah, that is our key business. That is a core business. Our core differentiating business is our knowledge, right? And it's an evidence-based knowledge. Which, I think many pharmacists do try very hard. They try to be very proactive. Time is of course a limiter. But that said, you know, give yourself goals, smart goals, very simple. Bring it back down to, you know, you yourself. Get smart goals, don't just be random in what happens, you know. “Oh, well, whatever the year brings, a year brings.” No be quite structured in that. And I think that's where mentors can help you “What's your goal for this year? What do you want to do at the end?” and then work with the end in mind. You know, having some structure is really important too, to also guide you to where you want to go.

[Allie Xu] Yeah, thank you. So another question is related to this. What other qualities and skill sets student or pharmacists can prepare to create a successful pharmacy career like yours.

[Joyce McSwan] Of course, there’s two key areas one is behavioural, and one, the other is purely skill based. So the two areas that you have to prepare yourself to excel, if you want to excel, you know — I mean excelling is humans are made to excel. You know, humans like to have rewards, our brain works on reward systems. We go to work for a reward. The better rewarded, the better we feel. You know, we feel more purposeful. So that's just how we're made. So having two areas behavioural, and clinical or skills is important. So behavioural, obviously, self awareness, preparation of that, you know, being self aware, being wanting to grow, that growth mindset, being able to be okay with constructive feedback, knowing how to process that in your own system, you know. So a lot of behavioural attitudes and mindset, I think, is a huge one, to really, you know, pay a good way of success. You look at lots of people who are of success — and success can be in many ways. Success doesn't have to be in, that's identified for yourself. You've got to identify, you know, you've got to define your own success, first of all. No one else to define it, you've got to identify that and be okay with that. But most people who are so-called, “excelling” or, “successful,” or “outcomes-based,” got a mindset that they've either worked on, or that they've developed. Yeah. And anything can be developed, doesn't matter where you come from, doesn’t matter your history, doesn't matter how many opportunities you had or didn't have, that is 100% able to be developed. Right? So that's that part. Again, the other side is obviously clinical core skills, where you are in your scope, where you want to be. So if you're heading– and that's usually what you like. What are you passionate about? You can't stick at something you get up in the morning, “Oh not that again,” you know? If you're not a hospital pharmacists and you don't like the hierarchy in there then that's not going to be for you. No matter how much you want that to be, it may not, you know, it may not happen. Alternatively, if you don't like people in a community busy pharmacy, then oh, maybe that's, you know, maybe more research. So wherever you feel you can get up and go to in the morning and get quiet, you know, a skip in your step, head towards that direction. Even if you're not in that direction, it doesn't matter. Because generally a lot of us come out of uni, go to a community pharmacy to work, or you find a job that you can get. It could have been in the brand that you hate most, or you don't, you know, kind of agree with most and yet, you've got to work there because of a job, right? That's okay. That's just where you're start. That's not where you're gonna end. But you've got to chart that core so you can see how to get out of it, you know? So that's where your clinical upskilling needs to happen to get you there. Whether it's a course, whether it's work experience, even — doesn't have to be paid, you know — whether it's external peripheral volunteering, even, you know? Or even it's trying to get mentors in that space, ease you into that, perhaps. But build the skill that you need for where you want to hit. That's really important. I think with both of those in your little train. Yeah, you'll move forward very easily, very comfortably, very enjoyably. That's important. Got to enjoy it. And I think one of the biggest things we don't do very well is to celebrate it. Celebrate it. No matter how small, just even within yourself, just celebrate it. Doesn't have to be big hoo-ha, doesn't have to be a major award. Just for yourself, make sure you celebrate that win, because that keeps you going. That's actually how the human body works. So if you can work with your human body, then you stick it out. And you don't give up.

[Allie Xu] Wow, thank you, thank you. can really see that play out. I think it's very important. Again, you mentioned having a mentor helping us to plan that ahead in a structured way, to move toward.

[Joyce McSwan] In a structured way, doesn't mean that the structure can't change. It's a very dynamic process. Like I said, the end may not look like how it's starting. Sometimes we think the start is how it’s to look like, where we're rigid in going, “That's how it's supposed to look like, that’s all. My vision is–” but you know, usually they're very much– they’re stepping stones. But usually the end is better than how it started because you've got experience along the way. And you've had mentors hopefully along the way. That's, you know, that’s helped to shape that. And be dynamic about it. It's changeable. It's okay that it's changeable.

[Allie Xu] Mmm. Wow. Next question is what would you do differently if you can restart your pharmacy carrier? Or was that one thing you would like to change?

[Joyce McSwan] Wow, that's a good question. I probably would have really liked to understand better and sooner the word, “value.” So, “value,” it’s a very big word. And it's a critical word in everything that we do, I've come to realize. And it was only in the last three years, there I actually understood that word well. And it came from a mentor, who really helped me to understand what value meant, as in creating your own value, making sure what you did had value, making sure that, you know, your collaborators understood your value, and also patients got value. How does value really look like for patients? How does value look like in a community pharmacy setting? I think that's a word that's not understood at all, very well. And value isn't just about money. Value is about outcomes. It's about, you know, this add-on, everyone's talking about your add-on. Well, that's a value. But what does that mean for different people? So to me, in hindsight, I wished — and you know, it's just part of the journey — but I think that if I knew that earlier, that would have been really helpful for me. I struggled with that concept for a very long time. And nobody taught that very well. You know, it may still sound very vague to some of you even hearing me say it. But value is a very big word that you can't move forward with in implementing much without understanding that word well, you know? And then comes back down, if you were to apply, that comes back down to your even everyday work, you know. How are you valued? What are you going to do to be better value? Is your boss seeing value in you as an employee? Is your patient seeing value in every interaction, which is what makes them come back? You know, because once you've understood all that and know how to optimize it, then suddenly your power and perception changes. So that's probably one thing I would have really liked to have learned earlier. Probably, I'd say, that was one of the major things. Another one may have been being probably less of a perfectionist. I had this idea that to innovate, to create, and to launch, that everything had to be super perfect and ready to go. That it was tested good enough that, you know– and in some cases, yeah, I suppose there is need for that. But equally, the concept of piloting ideas was something I was able to do, especially with the persistent pain program work. And that told me that it's okay to start even if things are not fully perfect, that you would learn along that journey if you only got started, you know. You can't start with nothing you've got to start with. But it doesn't have to be amazing, before you put it to a bit of a test. And then, you know, you can always test small and then roll with the test. So that was probably a very big, big lesson as well. But that was also probably a bit of personality, a bit of my own– maybe my own value system of myself, you know. But my own calculation on own efforts as well. So it being okay that sometimes you don't have to be amazing and everything’s perfect before you start. Yeah.

[Allie Xu] Mmm, mmm. Wow. Thank you. Thank you. Next question is about international women's month. As was said, this year’s theme is women in leadership. I think this is a perfect conversation to have, space to have for women out there in the pharmacy industry, whether they're pharmacy students or early career pharmacists or a woman in the pharmacy working force. As a pharmacist, what does that mean? Can you share with us your advice as a woman in the industry, to be woman leader in the industry? What's your advice?

[Joyce McSwan] Yeah, I think, look, women are leaders. We are usually in a household, you know, the Chief Executive Officer of so many things already, you know. Where immediately if you, you know, get married, which some people do or don't or be in a relationship, you're leading your partner and vice versa, you know. If you're a mother, you lead your children. So I think in many, many instances and even within a framework of a family, even if you're a daughter, you know, you'll have different areas of leading, you know. You could be the first born and you're already leading your siblings, you know. And I think we practice leadership all the time, we're just not always giving it that term. We naturally, by natural, just being female, I think we have already lots of leadership qualities. So that's probably number one to acknowledge. I think being a– I mean, I never planned to be a leader in the industry, I sort of just believed in what I did and I was restless enough to just pursue the passions of the gaps that I wanted to assist with. Especially in the healthcare industry, you know, you tend to be people– who gravitate to healthcare are probably quite empathetic people, you know, there's different visions in mind. So I think, as a female leader, I'm very proud of that. But I'm also equally wanting to make sure that we're not putting that pressure on ourselves that we necessarily always have to, you know, be at that upper shalom to lead. We already are leading. So number one, let's get that one out the door. You know, whether your name appears in what journal or not doesn't mean anything, you already lead. And I think matriarchs in a family system, you know, your grandmother's, they're all leaders. So that's– we're already leaders. But in an industry, in workplaces, we also need to know that we can't do everything. And we can't expect ourselves to have it all. I think that is important to adjust. People may seem like they get it all or have it all, but usually they don't. Usually they don't. There's trade offs. You know, they don't have it all, because when you're working with your family, that's not all. You know, but maybe materialism, commercialism may have us think that, “Hey, we can have it all.” And that, I think that's probably not true. We can't. And it's okay that we don't have at all. If you choose to be a leader within your industry, there will be sacrifices and trade offs. They may be for short term, maybe for the longer term, it doesn't matter. It's for everyone to choose what that journey looks like. What's important is we must be very good role models. I think where leadership really comes in and the real truth of leadership is that we must be really good, and you know, hopefully in positive role models. And that's what leadership is about. It's making sure that other people you influence are better than you is what I feel leadership is. Leadership is not about bossing people around. A leader is someone who makes sure that their team is better than them. That makes you a good leader. Because that's what you want to do. You want to be an optimizer of others. That's actually the true definition of leadership. And then you're facilitating, you're just guiding, you know, that's what leadership is about. To me, I think women are natural leaders, because we've done it for for historical reasons, we're probably made that way. And I think hopefully more and more, you know, if there are opportunities and frameworks within a workplace that helps to cater for that, that will enable more female leaders, you know? Because they understand purely that we've got family demands, and we've got, you know, whatever, other commitments. But, “Yeah, hey, she would be a really good leader.” If a workplace can help to facilitate that, knowing that she can't do it all, then that will give us good female role models. And then the cycle has to finish, it has to close a cycle. No point going to the top and staying there. That’s why I believe so much mentoring, you have to give it back. A leader that just stays in, doesn’t give it back, kind of, you know, reaches Everest and doesn't know how to come down. I mean, you’ll freeze in Everest, you know? You’d die up there. You've got to be able to close the loop and give it back. Then you survive long time. And I think that's really the, again, the key. It's a cycle. Leadership is a cycle, not to stay there and be there forever. It's to stay there to give back and climb another mountain. Maybe a higher one. I don't know, maybe a lower one. Maybe you get to climb three mountains rather than one big one. But it's a cycle and it must come back and close that loop off. Because then we raise new leaders. And then that continues that momentum of ultimately, why? To find solutions for problems? Simple. And the solution usually doesn't lie with the guy who just reached Mount Everest, right? Because we want to help more people climb Everest. So the guy's got up there, he's gone, “I know which ones which route to take. Let me show you so you can take the next climb.” That's true leadership to me. And that's what I strive for. And yeah, yeah, and I think that's really the good– one measure for yourself, but measure for you watching someone else to be a leader, you know. To go, “Are they really a leader?” And yeah, and as women. The other thing that I think women leaders need to be very careful of and make sure they do is to self care. Self care, because sustainability, if someone is so talented, we want them around for a long time. We want them to go, “Hey, I've been in leadership. Now I'm going to take a little little break before I come back to leadership again, and that's okay,” you know? Or little breaks all day, every day, doesn't matter. But they need to self care. Self care for themselves so they can continue to give sustainably. I think those are my views on women, and leadership, and what that looks like. And I think everyone's a leader, you know, everyone, if you want to be a leader, you can be a leader, doesn't matter how small that is. We're leading our patients every day. We're leaders for our patients every day. That's why advocacy defines that immediately for you. If you're an advocate, you’re a leader. Done. So, which I think you know, if we sort of measure that against that, then we're already hopefully leading and then mainly now it's it's building on that.

[Allie Xu] Wow, thank you. Thank you so much, Joyce, for sharing your wisdom, your experience and your story with us. And we can't wait to follow you, follow your journey, and hopefully reach out to you and learn more from you. So thank you so much.

[Joyce McSwan] Yeah, no worries. Thanks, guys. ​​

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Your Pharmacy Career Podcast, proudly brought to you by Raven’s Recruitment, Australia's leading specialist pharmacy recruitment agency. If you enjoyed this episode and know anyone else who you think would benefit from it, we would be grateful if you could share it with them. Together, we help even more pharmacists develop a career and life they love. If you have any questions or suggestions about future podcast episodes, please reach out to us via email,


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