Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist April 2016 Contents COVER
Pharmacy customers rarely pick up the phone and call the editor of a
pharmacy magazine to heap praise on their local pharmacist. Actually
it is almost unheard of, but it does happen – and when it does the wise
The pharmacist in this case was PSA
member Beatrix Zielonka-Perry,
who has been a pharmacist for
more than 30 years. She owns the
independent McCrae pharmacy on
the Mornington Peninsula at McCrae
in Victoria and is also an accredited
According to this customer,
Beatrix provided ‘first class assistance to
both my wife and I over the past 10 years.
‘My late wife was a long term sufferer
of uni-polar mood disorder, as well
as many physical illnesses. The mood
disorder was prevalent over five decades.
Most importantly her last 10 years
were ever so much better. It would be
impossible for me to adequately cover
all the helpful information provided by
Beatrix,’ he said.
Beatrix has a bachelor degree in
psychology and a strong interest
in mental health. When Australian
Pharmacist called, one of her first
comments was that in her view mental
health first aid ‘should be mandatory like
normal first aid training.’
Beatrix’s interest in psychology evolved
through her pharmacy practice.
‘I decided to go back to school. I’ve always
been interested in psychology. We use it a
lot in our profession anyway,’ she said.
Beatrix was exposed to forward
pharmacy early in her career and is
passionate about the importance
of being out front talking to people.
But talking to people is not everything.
‘You know the biggest thing is learning
to listen. That is probably my one little
soapbox comment that I make to other
health professionals – just sit down
quietly and learn to listen to your client,
your patient,’ she said.
Beatrix said that people come to her
concerned about a person or family
member ‘whose personality is perhaps
changing or whose mental state is
changing and no one seems to want
‘An advocate, like a pharmacist, doesn’t
need to do much but just encourage
them to keep asking questions. Hopefully
sooner or later someone will do the right
test that shows perhaps what is going
on, that it is not simply a mood disorder,
depression, an anxiety disorder.
‘I think we [pharmacists] are well placed
to help our patients with some of those
issues. They might not understand the
terms or the kind of specialists that are
available but we do, that’s our area.
‘I think mental health first aid should be
mandatory like normal first aid training.
‘It is something we think we all know
how to do, or we think there is not much
we can do, but after the intensive two-
day course it really is an eye opener and
does give you confidence to ask some
Beatrix gives the example of self-harm.
‘ To ask, “are you thinking of self-
harming?” That is a difficult question to
ask because we all shy away from those
kinds of issues. Yet those questions,
sometimes when you ask them straight
out in a sincere manner you’d be amazed
‘People are able to talk to you and feel
that you are going to care. So I think it is
a very important aspect of our training
that really has to be emphasised.
‘It is satisfying, but I’ll be honest
sometimes it can be confronting. We
are all human and you are affected by
people’s stories, by people’s suffering.
‘I would definitely advise young people
to get some professional training if they
want to pursue it to a greater extent as
‘You do need to be able to build up a bit
of a wall occasionally. Otherwise you can
easily burn out. I’ve done that a couple of
times in my life where I’ve been physically
and emotionally affected by things and
had to take a little bit of a step back.’
Operating a small independent pharmacy
Beatrix provides a range of professional
services including diabetes checks,
health checks and weight management.
Given the potential for comorbidities,
including mental health issues,
these can lead to conversations about
‘It’s very much patient-centred,” she said.
‘ The weight management services are
not product based. We are talking more
about what is going on with this person.
How can they improve their health in the
most cost effective way? We are not really
interested in promoting a particular brand
of diet or anything like that. We are talking
more on an individual basis.
‘We do a lot of blood pressure
monitoring. Many of our local doctors
know we do it very efficiently so they
often ask a patient to come and see us
over the course of a week or a fortnight.’
Beatrix urged newly registered
pharmacists not to give up in the current
‘I believe it is cyclical. I am sure things will
become clearer and more positive in the
next few years as our place in the health
community gets redefined.
‘ The other thing is – I would strongly urge
them to learn to listen to their patients.’
LEARNING TO LISTEN – A PATIENT PERSPECTIVE
BY ANDREW DANIELS
Beatrix Zielonka-Perry of McCrae
Pharmacy in Victoria
Australian Pharmacist April 2016 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
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