Pharmacy Students from Tassie Reflect on their WA Placement

Two pharmacy students reflected on and recognised the value of their nine-week rural placement with the WA Centre for Rural Health located in Geraldton (four and a half hours drive north of Perth) as it comes to an end.

Tom Phan and Sophie Xie travelled thousands of kilometres, from their enrolling University located in Tasmania, to take part in typical professional experiences of pharmacists living and working in rural communities based in WA’s Midwest.

The two fourth-year students shared their placement time between the Geraldton Hospital, local community pharmacies and the remote community of Mt Magnet - located approximately 350km east of Geraldton. Both students received cultural orientation specifically tailored for understanding and interacting with Yamatji people in the Midwest.

In addition to regular placement sites, Tom and Sophie also travelled to Yalgoo with two Aboriginal Care Coordinators from the Goldfields Midwest Medicare Local (GMML).

Miranda Batten, Rural Pharmacy Liaison Officer at the WA Centre for Rural Health, said GMML Coordinators, Beryl and Denielle, mentored Tom and Sophie through delivering an information session to young Aboriginal women in Yalgoo as part of the Women on the Move project which is run jointly by two Aboriginal agencies in the Midwest, Yullela Aboriginal Corporation and the Midwest Education and Employment Development Aboriginal Corporation.

“Beryl and Denielle were keen on involving the students in the work they are doing with the ‘Women on the Move’ project – it was a great opportunity for collaboration in the important work carried out by the Aboriginal Care Coordinators based at GMML, and at the same time, offered a practical experience of rural partnership work to the students,” Assistant Professor Batten said.

The WA Centre for Rural Health is engaged by Yullela to assist with the evaluation of the Women on the Move program.

Director of the WA Centre for Rural Health Professor Sandra Thompson said it was good to see lots of agencies working together to deliver these health and education programs that “are so essential to improving Aboriginal health, education and employment.”

“We particularly like seeing the education and evaluation/research components of our Centre assisting with Aboriginal development initiatives and partnering with other agencies,” Dr Thompson said.

The Yalgoo experience required Tom and Sophie to talk with young Aboriginal women, aged between 16 and 25, about the importance of taking medicines.

“Denielle opened the session and broke the ice with a presentation about her life as an Aboriginal woman in the workforce. She talked about some of the barriers she overcame and how she managed work and family commitments – This really got the girls to connect, open up and get the idea that anything is achievable if you believe in yourself and put in the hard work,” Tom said.

“Sophie and I then used pictures and diagrams to show them how medication can play an important role in keeping them healthy and really tried to explain how important it was that they read the directions on the packaging. We stressed that they should ask their doctor or pharmacist if they had trouble understanding dosages and other information,” Tom said. “I think the girls really appreciated learning what happens to different organs if you don’t take your medicine.”

Tom reflected on his experience as unique and as one that had provided him with the insight in the lives of Aboriginal people in remote communities, together with the opportunity to adapt his skills to rural practice.


Sophie Xie Tom Phan
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