Catching up with a UQ Pharmacy graduate
Ever wonder where OzTREKK students have ended up?
We touched base with former University of Queensland Pharmacy graduate John K to see what’s been happening. He graduated from the UQ program in 2011 and was featured in our news section a few years ago: Canadian pharmacist talks about UQ Pharmacy.
So, now it’s time for another catch-up!
How long after you finished your degree were you able to start working as a pharmacist in Canada?
Gaining employment as a registered pharmacist was fairly easy and quick once I was registered with the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP). And the great thing about the OCP is that they are really quick at processing your application and takes only a few days whereas in Australia it takes about a month. My issue was that it took a whole year before I could start my training in Canada because of the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC) exams which are only offered once a year. Then I had to apply to the OCP as a student and apply for exemption from having to take courses designed for international graduates.
Did you find the evaluation and examination process through the PEBC difficult, or was there anything you wish you knew beforehand?
I found the Evaluating Exam fairly easy because UQ did really well in covering the topics that were on that exam, even topics that I did not expect, such as business questions—which were part of UQ’s pharmacy program. Both the written and oral Qualifying exams were challenging both mentally and physically, but again, UQ did well to prepare me since they emphasize Quality Use of Medicines, which is a major part of those exams but also in Canadian practice since Canadian pharmacists are able to prescribe prescription medications as well as change prescriptions and renew them without contacting a doctor. That being said, it is very important for graduates to study the main references used by Canadian pharmacists before the qualifying exams in order to be successful.
What did your process of coming back to Canada look like?
The initial process after returning to Canada was difficult because there were so many unknowns and I knew that I had to pass all of the PEBC exams on my first try in order to avoid having to do extra courses as mandated by the OCP for international graduates. Also, the exams are all two-day exams except for the oral exam so it is pretty full-on. However, I found that once I got past the PEBC hurdles, everything fell into place afterwards. I found really good pharmacies for my studentship and internship and it went by really fast. So I guess my message for graduates is to be patient with the PEBC stage, you will get through it.
And did your process of heading to Australia to work look like?
Getting registered in Australia is much easier than compared to Canada in that the examinations are a lot easier. However, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Looking back, I am glad that I challenged myself with the PEBC exams since they make sure that pharmacists are of the best quality. In other words, I found that the Canadian process made sure you were much more prepared to work in practice.
Are you able to compare both work experiences? Pros and cons?
To be perfectly honest, Canadian pharmacy practice is decades ahead of Australia, everything from the expanded scope of practice to technology. Australian pharmacists do not have a prescriber number like Canadian pharmacists and as such, they cannot prescribe prescription medications, renew prescriptions nor order lab tests. The dispensing programs are also pretty basic whereas the Canadian programs are quite technologically advanced.
Retail pharmacies do not use technicians to their full capabilities as they do in Canada where they do all of the dispensing, blister packing, checking blister packs and renewed prescriptions and doing the order. So in Australia, the pharmacist has to do most of the technical work not leaving them much time for clinical work. Also, the pay is lower for pharmacists in Australia. However, some positives are that prescriptions are streamlined nationwide whereas in Canada you will get a variety of different types of prescriptions. I had one doctor who would print them out on what looked like a receipt paper. Also, there is no private pharmacy insurance in Australia so you do not have to deal with all the different billing from various insurance companies which is the most frustrating part of the pharmacy workflow in Canada. In Australia, you just bill Medicare and that’s it.
For graduates returning to Canada, I would highly recommend that you start off in one of the large pharmacy chains and once you get comfortable with pharmacy, usually after a year, switch to an independent pharmacy because they have adapted unique ways to survive in the competitive pharmacy market. You will get more opportunity to specialize in a certain area and provide more clinical services, the workflow is much better and higher job satisfaction.
If you’d like to learn further about the pharmacy licensure process, check out the Practicing Pharmacy in Canada page.
UQ Bachelor of Pharmacy Honours
Program: Bachelor of Pharmacy Honours
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Semester intakes: July or February each year
Duration: 4 years
Application deadline: The application deadline for the July intake is May 30; and November 29 for the February intake. You are encouraged to apply as early as possible.