People in rural, regional and remote Australia have worse health than people living in cities. They have higher rates of chronic disease, more health risks and higher death rates in every age group.1 Compared with those who live in the major cities, and people in Australia’s rural and remote areas have reduced access to prescribed and non-prescribed medicines, less advice about the use of medicines, and poorer access to professional pharmacy services. As with so many other issues in the rural and remote health sector, there is a gradient of deficit with increasing remoteness.
Pharmacists can provide very cost effective and accessible health care solutions for many rural Australians. Without effective use of medicines, the burden of chronic disease will continue to rise. Rural pharmacists should be supported to provide advanced care, especially in areas where GPs are scarce.
Pharmacy Academic – University Centre for Rural Health
Lindy Swain is the Rural Pharmacy Liaison Officer and Pharmacist Academic at the University Centre for Rural Health, North Coast. Lindy is one of 12 similar pharmacy academics located at University Departments of Rural Health located across Australia. These pharmacy academics are part of the Rural Pharmacy Support Network (RPSN), an important network for advising and assisting rural pharmacists to implement change, to develop effective rural healthcare models and to assist the growth of the rural workforce.
Lindy’s role is to provide local pharmacist support, facilitate rural placements for pharmacy students and conduct research into rural and Aboriginal health issues.
Lindy’s area of interest is “Medications and Aboriginal Health”. Lindy has recently developed the “Guide to Providing Pharmacy Services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients” which can be found at the RPSN website.
Support for North Coast Pharmacists
Educational CPD events are organised at the UCRH for North Coast pharmacists once or twice annually. Pharmacists are also notified of events being organised by North Coast Medicare Local, Northern NSW Local Health district and Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.
Local pharmacists are also supported with regular newsletters. The pharmacist academic mentors and coaches pharmacy interns, their preceptors and consultant pharmacists. She also often assists pharmacists to find pharmacy staff and locum pharmacists.
North Coast Rural Pharmacy Placement Program
The North Coast Rural Pharmacy Placement program offers varied, exciting and challenging placement opportunities for pharmacy students who undertake a 6-8 week program. This program is unique in its offering of mixed hospital, community, aged care, Aboriginal health and multi-disciplinary educational experiences.
The following activities may be included in the program of students undertaking the North Coast Pharmacy Placement Program.
- GPs at Riverland’s Drug and Alcohol Unit
- Diabetes educators
- Nurse practitioners in the renal unit
- Multi-disciplinary team at the pain clinic
- Psychogeriatric nurse practitioner assessing dementia patients
- Mental health team counselling patients
- Nurses and Aboriginal Health Workers at an Aboriginal Medial Service
- Aboriginal park ranger exploring Byron Bay
Pharmacy students also receive lectures on Aboriginal Health and Rural Health, and receive support in delivering case studies and Quality Use of Medicine research projects.
Students also often visit a small rural school to deliver health presentations and improve their communication skills, and are encouraged to become involved in many of the inter-disciplinary learning opportunities at the UCRH.
North Coast Aboriginal Pharmacy Assistant Program
On the North Coast 20 Aboriginal high school students have graduated 2010-2013 with an HSC and a certificate II Pharmacy. Many of these students are still working in pharmacy and are provide valuable links between pharmacy and the Aboriginal community.
Rural Pharmacy Research
Research has been conducted which explores Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients’ perspectives of the Home Medicines Review program. It also explored the perspectives of health professionals working at Aboriginal Health Services and surveyed the views of HMR accredited Pharmacists.
2014 a Rural Pharmacists’ Survey was conducted to help inform negotiations for Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement.
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