A List of Flexible Career Options for Pharmacist MumsMay 10, 2022
Being a pharmacist isn’t easy at the best of times, but juggling your career around your responsibilities of being a mum can be really difficult. The pressure, lack of flexibility, and limited wage increases may have you on the lookout for alternative pharmacist jobs.
When I had my first baby, my priorities changed a lot. I desperately wanted to find work that would fit in with my new life as a mum, but also provided me with a sense of purpose and meaning. Finding that “ideal” job, however, just seemed impossible and I didn’t even know where to start looking. Does this sound familiar? Well, what if I told you that there are more opportunities for flexible pharmacist work than ever before! I’ve rounded up some of the best, a list of jobs that will get you excited enough to start taking action today! If your job doesn’t fit in with your life, or provide career satisfaction, then it's time to find one that does!
Look outside the box (or dispensary)
My personal experience is that once you become a Mum, you really start reflecting on your career options, and wondering whether community pharmacy is something you want to go back to. Today pharmacists are employed in all kinds of roles outside of traditional pharmacy. Pharmacists work as data analysts, or in regulatory affairs with private pharmaceutical companies, or the government. Health IT is a new and evolving area, with more and more pharmacists reporting working in e-health / digital health roles. There are positions involved in bringing new products or devices to market. Such positions may be as a medical science liaison, or research assistant, or pharmacovigilance and clinical trials related. This kind of work may be with government organisations such as the TGA, or other private enterprises such as contract research organisations (CROs). A pharmacist mum I know even recently found a position working for a private IVF clinic and loves it!
This can also be a tricky field to navigate, so if there is an industry, company, or job that interests you, I really encourage you to reach out to them. Make a phone call or send an expression of interest email. All you need to do is introduce yourself, tell them (enthusiastically) why you are interested in their company or area of work, and ask them what job opportunities would be suitable for a pharmacist to apply for. You have nothing to lose. At the very least you’ll gain a better understanding of the industry and what keywords to search in Seek!
The challenges of negotiating work hours, and feeling bad if your child is sick and you can’t work are stressful. There are many pros to finding a job that doesn’t need you to be there legally for the business to function. Anecdotally these kinds of roles seem to offer flexible hours and some work-from-home arrangements, and many pharmacist mums are now finding work in these areas.
Opportunities with pharmacy or other healthcare organisations
At the time of writing this, I work part-time for a government-run clinical organisation who publishes resources for the rural and remote health workforce (mostly Drs and nurses). I can do the work from home, and attend meetings once a fortnight. If I can’t attend a meeting, I can follow up with the minutes and out-of-session correspondence. It’s great work, which provides a sense of achievement working within a multidisciplinary group, and seeing the end result when the publications are released. How did it begin? I emailed the coordinator of the group asking questions about the publication. That was it. I showed interest and I got involved. I was working in remote health, so it was the right place, right time. But without that initial email, the opportunity would never have happened.
You could consider roles working for pharmacy organisations such as PSA, The Pharmacy Guild or SHPA. There may be opportunities with other health organisations on certain projects. Check out places like the National Prescribing Service (NPS), Diabetes Australia, or Beyond Blue, and sign up to your local primary health network newsletter to receive alerts on local area opportunities.
Working in health education is also a great option if you are interested in this field. Many pharmacists have gone on to complete a Cert IV in Training and Assessing (TAE) and now deliver training through TAFE etc. for pharmacy assistants, or work for the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) marking intern examinations. You could also get involved with universities, providing tutoring to pharmacy students. Some pharmacists write education articles for publications such as the Australian Journal of Pharmacy and for education platforms such as Ausmed. You don’t need further qualifications to do this, but you do need to demonstrate your ability to write and have relevant clinical knowledge. I recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Health Professional Education through James Cook University and absolutely loved it. I learned so much about how we really learn as health professionals, and how to teach and prepare education sessions.
A pharmacist portfolio career
I love being a pharmacist. But there was a time when I felt less than inspired to continue in this career. My saviour? Home Medication Reviews (HMRs). I worked through the course slowly but steadily and by the time I was ready for it, I began doing HMRs. The flexibility was wonderful. I’d book appointments in the afternoon once my husband was home from work, or a family member would look after the baby while I popped out for an hour or so. It was the first time I felt a sense of freedom and ownership over my career and my ability to earn money on my own time.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was building a “portfolio career”. A pharmacist portfolio career is where you combine different streams of income, to either work full-time or part-time, across different areas of pharmacy or working as a consultant.
I believe that a portfolio career can provide pharmacists with that perfect mix of career satisfaction, flexibility, and earning potential. If we look at the more common and emerging pharmacist pathways, you could consider a mix of part-time work in a community pharmacy with HMRs, hospital, aged care, or GP practice work.
The biggest objection I hear when we discuss these kinds of roles is that it takes too much time, money, and effort to upskill in these areas. I’m not going to lie, in some ways this is very true. But remember, it’s not a race. All you have to do is start, and then continue moving forward. Even if it feels like your pace is too slow, that’s okay. Make a goal for yourself that is realistic and you’ll get there.
But if moving into these other, more clinical areas of pharmacy seems like too much of a commitment at this point, you could always look at combining community pharmacy with one of the other options above.
So while some pharmacists may be able to navigate the return to work relatively easily after having a baby, and are fortunate to work in an environment that supports their needs, this is not the reality for many pharmacists. If you fall into the latter category and are looking for alternative pharmacist jobs, you’ve now got a whole bunch of options you can begin to explore with excitement and possibility! Remember, small action steps can still make a big difference in the end. If you'd like more tips, motivation, and mentorship along the way join my Facebook community: The Pharmacy Mentor Careers Group Australia