Challenges of Rural and Remote Practice
There is no doubt that when you choose a career pathway in Rural Pharmacy there will be a number of challenges to overcome, particularly in the beginning of a professional career. These challenges may include:
- Heavy workload with limited locum availability to allow for time off
- Limited opportunities to undertake professional development activities
- Professional isolation from other healthcare professionals and colleagues
- Negative perception of rural practice from urban colleagues
- Isolation from friends and family
- Limited career options for spouses across some occupational areas
- Limited quality schooling options for children, particularly for secondary schooling
- Poor availability of local social and cultural facilities/activities (e.g. housing, IT, religious)
- Loss of privacy and anonymity
The list above highlights some of the common challenges that the rural context can pose to healthcare professionals. Although real and significant, there are a number of simple ways to minimise the impact or overcome these challenges as outlined below.
Friends and family may seem a long way away however...
- With advances in technology and government action on networking the nation, most pharmacies will have a broadband connection which makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family.
The tyranny of distance, professional isolation and limited access to continuing professional development opportunities are common challenges that rural pharmacists face. There are however a number of programs and support networks in place that makes it easy for pharmacists to overcome these challenges. A few tips are listed below:
- Get to know the pharmacists working in your town and adjacent areas
- Check out what professional development allowances are available for Rural Pharmacists
Julie has been working in one of the two pharmacies in a small country town for 5 months now. She has got to know a few of the customers, who regularly ask her for advice. While doing her grocery shopping she meets one of them who tells her that her latest recommendation of taking regular paracetamol works well on his knee pain and that his GP has started him on a new blood pressure medication. He asks Judy whether the two medicines will be ok together.
What would be an appropriate response by Julie:
One of the rewarding features of practice in rural and remote areas is that pharmacists often get to know their customers very well and gain a good insight into the person’s medical history. Sometimes being a well known health professional has the disadvantage of people wanting advice when you meet them outside the pharmacy.
There are a few issues to consider:
- It is important to maintain professional boundaries to allow you to switch off and take your mind off your work. This is will help avoiding burn-out.
- You also should check with your professional indemnity insurance whether you are covered for giving advice outside your professional setting, though most do, you still will have to prove due diligence in doing so.
- So Julie could have expressed that she is glad her advice is working for the customer but also explain that she doesn’t feel comfortable to give further advice in a supermarket isle. In order to do the best she can for him it would be better if he comes to see her in the pharmacy during the next few days where she will be happy to discuss everything in detail.
For more scenarios check the SARRAH website: http://www.sarrahtraining.com.au under Training and Support for the “Supporting the Transition of Allied Health Professionals to Remote & Rural Practice training package”.