What does it take to get more than 300 future pharmacists from across Australia on campus in Adelaide for a one-week educational, networking, trade-show and social hall event organised entirely by students?
“It comes down to a lot of hours of hard work, organisation, commitment and coordination,” says UniSA final-year Pharmacy student Caela Crane, who led the organisation of the National Australian Pharmacy Students' Association (NAPSA) annual congress.
“This position is not for the faint hearted.”
The South Australian Pharmacy Students' Association (SAPSA) recently hosted the NAPSA Congress 2019 at UniSA’s City West campus for just over 300 pharmacy students from every state and territory.
No small feat, given that as well as studying full-time, the organiser has two part-time jobs, was president of the South Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association (SAPSA) at the time and volunteers for the Down Syndrome Society.
Preparations began more than 18 months ago following a successful bid by Caela and other SAPSA committee members to hold the event in Adelaide.
The students attending had their accommodation, food, social events and education sessions all provided for, so a huge part of Caela’s role as congress organising chair was securing sponsors.
She says the negotiation and coordination took a lot of time.
“This was a first for me in many areas – I’ve never organised a national conference before,” Caela says.
“I worked alongside an amazing committee made up of UniSA Pharmacy students from various year levels.
“The most rewarding part of congress was seeing it all come together – seeing the delegates engaging in the education sessions, experiencing the variety offered by the trade show, networking and enjoying the many social events gave me a real sense of achievement.”
During the congress, NAPSA raised $16,534 in donations to the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS).
The service supports Australian pharmacists, pharmacy interns and students by providing a team of volunteer pharmacists trained in peer support and telephone counselling 365 days of the year from 8am to 11pm.
PSS president John Coppock says he was “absolutely stunned” by the amount raised by NAPSA.
“They obviously realise how important a support service like PSS is to them. It highlights to me the quality of people we’ve got coming in to be pharmacists. It shows you their enthusiasm, their togetherness, their energy. And they’re quite inspirational to me, it restores your faith in the future,” Coppock told the Australian Journal of Pharmacy.
Caela says the Pharmacists’ Support Service is a great cause.
“The PSS has been providing free support for pharmacists for more than 20 years and we felt it was time to give back to the service and recognise all the hard work that is has invested in our sector over the years,” she says.
And the effort in organising the congress more than paid off.
“The feedback we received was all positive. Delegates had an amazing time, enjoyed the food, the education and social events and appreciated all work that went in to bringing congress to Adelaide,” Caela says.
And for all students about to enter a profession, Caela says “get involved”.
“My one piece of advice is to engage in the profession you have chosen, irrespective of the discipline or direction. The more you engage, the more rewarding the outcome.”
1: There is a lot more to pharmacy than “sticking a label on the box”
“Pharmacists are medication experts and are responsible for the quality and safe use of medicines for patients to improve their health outcomes,” Caela says. “They are an important part of any health care team and work collaboratively with doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals to achieve the best patient health outcomes.”
2: Pharmacy is a diverse degree and extends beyond community pharmacy
“A pharmacy degree opens the door to endless opportunities – it is a gateway to making a difference in patients’ health outcomes,” Caela says. “You will find pharmacists working in hospitals, nursing homes, government, the defence force as well as in GP practice.”
3: It takes at least four years of study to become a pharmacist
“Many people don’t realise, but to become a pharmacist you are required to complete a four-year degree with extra training required each year after graduation,” Caela says. “More recently there has been the opportunity to complete further study and specialise in a desired area.”
President of the National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association Board, representing pharmacy students across Australia, UniSA’s Jess Hsiao was interviewed by The Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) at the conference.
Jess is in her fifth and final year of a Bachelor of Pharmacy/Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Honours).
Read her Q&A on AJP.com.au.