As the local pharmacist in a Queensland country town of around 5500 people, Lucy Walker is well known and trusted in her community.
So during her time running the Goondiwindi chemist, she’s been asked everything from “Can you help my mum?” to “Would you take a look at this rash?” in a place most people wouldn’t want to look (she politely declined that request).
“As a pharmacist, you’re seeing people of all stages,” Lucy tells Mamamia. “You’re helping a new mum whose young child has colic to older people, even to the stage of palliative care.”
We spoke to Lucy to find out some of the questions she gets asked on a daily basis – and some not-so-common, yet very memorable ones.
1. I've left my medicine at home, can you help?
Lucy says there's a type of customer she'll see all the time: they're travelling through the small town and walk in with a panicked look on their face - they've forgotten to pack their medication.
"We'll liaise with the pharmacy or the doctor they normally go to and do an owing prescription. That happens all the time. And we'll also have people asking what to do if they've not had their medication."
2. Will this interfere with my other medication?
Lucy says people are also concerned that the medication they're taking may produce unwanted side effects, especially if they start trying a natural remedy or herb like St John's Wort.
"Quite often people come in saying 'I want to start this natural remedy, but can I take it with my normal medication?'" she tells us.
"So we do a lot of research for people. We've got the tools and resources and they can ask us rather than Dr Google. They really appreciate someone who can confidently tell them whether it's safe or not."
3. I couldn't get into the doctors, can you help?
In fact, Lucy and other pharmacists are often asked if they can step in when a doctor is unable to. And while Lucy says she knows when to refer patients on, there's actually a lot of simple ailments she can give expert advice on.
"A lot of people come to us because they can't get into the doctors. They come to us for professional advice and they know that we're available, we're accessible," she says.
"And they trust us to tell them 'You'll need to go to the hospital with that one' or 'Let's give this a try'. That's quite often why people come to us."
Of course, if it's something more serious or an emergency, a doctor is the way to go.
4. Can you give me a doctor's certificate for work?
"Some people are still not aware that pharmacists can do absence from work certificates," Lucy explains. "What we're finding is that hospitals are actually referring people with simple concerns like a cold or a mild 24-hour gastro bug to pharmacies rather than clogging up the emergency room.
"As pharmacists we really know where our scope of practice is and we'll more than happily refer people on if something is a bit more complicated. But if it's just that they need a day off work to rest and not spread the virus, we're more than happy and competent to do that."
5. Can you help with dad?
Lucy will often have parents asking about their young children, but she also sees a lot of adult children asking about their parents.
"We quite often have people coming in saying things like, 'I'm concerned my mum's not taking her medication properly'," she says.
One of the ways she helps both the customer and their elderly parent is by organising a Dosage Administration Aid - a container labelled with each day of week that has all their tablets for each day inside.
Now for the unusual ones...
Along with those common questions, Lucy says she's also had some not-so-common encounters, as well as some lovely moments that remind her why she does this job.
1. I'm having chest pains. What do you think that could be?
Lucy's built up so much trust in her community, that she's often the first person her customers ring with a health problem. Like the time an elderly resident called her describing the symptoms of a heart attack.
"One day I had a customer ring up saying 'I'm having chest pains'. I was like 'Okay can you ring the ambulance?'" she recalls. "He was at home and I was just talking him through it because he felt comfortable to ring his pharmacy and he didn't want to bother with the ambulance."
Lucy managed to convince the man to end the call, so she could call Triple Zero and organise an ambulance to go to his house.
"A lot of older people think, 'Oh, I don't want to trouble anyone, I'll just ring the pharmacy and see what they say'."
2. Can you take a look at this?
Another memorable, if slightly awkward, moment in Lucy's career was when a man came in asking her to do something he perhaps didn't realise was quite so inappropriate.
"I'll never forget the time a gentleman asked me to check out his jock itch," she says, with a laugh. "I just said 'No thank you, ah, you can describe the problem for me'. That was a weird one."
3. Is this still okay to take?
Part of Lucy's job is performing home medicine reviews, where she will go out to usually an older person's home to see what medication they've got. And it's often eye-opening.
"Through these visits you come across some medication that is really out of date. And I mean really out of date," she says. "Cases like their wife had died 40 years ago and all of her medications are still there."
These visits can also be an opportunity for her to see if there's something else she can help with.
"I might go do home medicine review for a nice old gentleman and realise that he's not coping at home and I'm able to ring up the community care nurse and organise care for him, so that he can stay in his home, but he's getting the care and assistance he needs," she adds.
And that pretty well sums up Lucy's job - helping people out in ways they might not have expected. It's earned her a special place in the community.
"Because you know family history and you know everything that's going on, people feel comfortable with you," Lucy explains. "And it's those relationships that make your day exciting. But also you really care for these people because you're friends outside work as well.
"What I find is we offer a point where we're interested in people and we're there to help them, and people appreciate that."
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This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Ask Your Pharmacist.
Whether your child is sick and you can’t get them to sleep, or you need help managing and caring for your parents as they grow older, your community pharmacist is here to help. As Australia’s most accessible health destination, pharmacies now do more than just dispense medication. Go in and speak to your pharmacist the next time you have a health issue or minor ailment, and find out how they can help you find the right solution. From vaccinations and absence from work certificates, to baby care and medication management, your community pharmacy is your health hub.