Where to start with Elsie Apolloni? I honestly felt tired just reading through her LinkedIn profile.
Managing partner at Capital Chemist Wanniassa; member of both the PGA and PSA ACT Branch Committees; the only pharmacist member of the ACT Health and Capital Health Network; Lifeline support worker; Pharmacists’ Support Service support worker; not to mention the numerous post-graduate qualifications she’s completed.
She scooped three awards at the 2017 ACT Telstra Business Woman Awards:
- 2017 Telstra ACT Business Woman of the Year
- 2017 Telstra ACT Business Women’s Entrepreneur Award winner
- 2017 Telstra ACT Young Business Woman of the Year
And to top it all off she was named the National 2017 Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year!
If you’ve had the chance to hear her speak or interact with her you’ll know that her positivity and passion for the pharmacy industry is infectious.
She sat down on our virtual couch in an honest and open interview about how past events have shaped her career and her advice for other pharmacists.
You obviously enjoy learning. Since completing your BPharm in 2009 you’ve gone on to complete various diplomas and graduate certificates. It can be incredibly easy to get bogged down in day to day work and not branch out or continue studying. What drove you to continue studying?
I love learning. As a pharmacist, we get to learn new things every day, but for areas of passion, I have looked outside work to further my knowledge. I am not saying it is easy to fit in – there are a lot of all-nighters, stress and last minute assignments in there, but it has been incredibly rewarding to complete further study and see the impact that extra knowledge has on my patients day-to-day and in helping me be the best pharmacist I can be.
You contribute to the community in various volunteer roles particularly in mental health as a lifeline telephone crisis support and a crisis supporter at the Pharmacists Support Service. How did that come about?
In 2015 one of my pharmacy assistants died by suicide. It was tragic, devastating and completely unexpected. That started my passion for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. A few month’s after the death of my team member, our pharmacy was looking for ways we could make some good come from this incredibly difficult time, and so I decided to invest some energy into furthering my skills.
Two years down the track, and I have a completely different perspective of mental illness and suicide. I feel empowered to have conversations with my patients, team members, family and friends about tricky topics, and our pharmacy loves the challenge of improving awareness of how pharmacy teams can help create mental resilience in their community.
At PSA17 you spoke about pharmacists needing to look after their own mental health. What are two techniques pharmacists can use to look after themselves?
My favourite two tips are:
- Know what recharges you and make time for that. For me, I love an hour of phone-free time, or a holiday, time with my husband and labradoodle, or even just a few episodes of ‘Forensic Files’ on Netflix takes my focus away from work and pharmacist life, and I bounce back into my work with enthusiasm after that!
- Know your limits, because otherwise your community and family missesout on the best version of you. Pharmacists are often very busy people, and it is important to know when you are heading into burnout. For me, I know if I get less than 8 hours sleep a few nights in a row, I will start to reach my limit of how helpful I can be to my community and family. It is important to me to look after myself, so that I can do the best job possible. Pharmacists are always putting others first- the health of others- but don’t forget about yourself in the process!
What is your career highlight? (Can you even pick one out of that list?!)
The last year or so has been incredible! I am grateful for different highlights for different reasons. The ACT Telstra Business Woman of the Year has probably been the most challenging and simultaneously exciting highlight- Thinking about my impact as a leader in a more generalist sense than as a pharmacist and pharmacy owner, and as a female business person has been tricky. The Telstra awards process has challenged me to separate myself from my role as a pharmacist- something that has become part of my identity over the last 15 years I have been in the community pharmacy industry.
I can’t discount the highlights of pharmacy industry recognition of the work of my team either- my team is what makes me get out of bed every morning, because they are like a second family to me (we call it ‘pharmily’- I love a lame pharmacy take on words!), and they are the most consistent highlight of my career- they have always been there, spotlight or no spotlight, and they are amazing humans for spending their days in the service of others with me at the pharmacy.
What advice do you have for pharmacists who have aspirations to own a pharmacy?
Find mentors: My biggest mentor, personally and professionally has been my business partner/pharmacy wife, Honor. She has taught me patience, perseverance, business ethics, competence as a pharmacist, and in the process gave me an incredible opportunity to become a pharmacy owner when I was 25 years old.
Do your research: I am a millennial, so it was very difficult for me to take the time to work out the best way to enter into pharmacy ownership, I just wanted to find a pharmacy fast and see how quickly I could change it/turn it around! On reflection, the opportunity I have now at Capital Chemist Wanniassa, while it may have taken a year longer or so to become a partner than what I had expected, was definitely worth the wait!
Get professional advice: Uni didn’t teach me a lot of the intricacies of becoming a small business owner, and good advice from people that know what they are talking about in the way of accounting, financial planning and insurance is worth the investment.
Know what makes you tick: The best pharmacy owners I observe have an underlying passion for their profession, or part of their profession that they incorporate into their everyday work. When your work is your passion, it doesn’t seem exhausting or feel like effort – it is simply how you love to spend your life.
What advice would you give to today’s pharmacy students and interns?
Be ready to be an adaptable, inspired health professional that can do anything you set your mind to! People entering our industry today will hopefully experience the continual evolution of our profession for years to come, and we need open-minded, flexible, big-thinking pharmacists to achieve and succeed in this environment.
Take every opportunity that comes your way, big or small. Join university pharmacy committees, seek out chances to network with your peers, go to pharmacy conferences, and immerse yourself in everything that is good about our profession! It helps to maintain an optimistic mind, in what, sometimes can be a profession that dwells in negativity. In my career to date, we have thrived on optimism, turning challenges into chances for change, and shifting the perception of what community pharmacists can do as the highly skilled health professional they are.
What do you think are essential skills that pharmacists should be taught but aren’t?
I am not sure there are particular skills that are missing. There are some general philosophies that I think are helpful.
Community pharmacy is, unsurprisingly, all about community. That means liking to work with people and a passion for helping others is fundamental in my view. Every interaction, with every human, has the ability to teach us something- sometimes we are taught patience, sometimes empathy, sometimes gratitude- but every interaction with every patient has the ability to be life-changing for their health outcomes. I think we forget to take every single opportunity we are given as primary health care professionals to make each interaction count.
I also enjoy students and interns who have great insight about their career and the ability to think beyond the four walls of a pharmacy for what they can achieve. Perhaps universities don’t give space for pharmacy students to ‘think big’ enough, but I can see so many incredible ways pharmacists could positively change health care delivery in Australia, and I am excited to see the next generation of pharmacists grow and implement that vision for our profession.
Finally – what is the best advice you’ve received (business or personal)?
The best piece of advice I have ever received was from a mentor of mine… and it is pretty simple – Do what is right, not what is easy.
The easy road has never served me as well as the road of hard work, and determination and struggle. If something is worth doing; if it is worth going to work, if it is worth spending time with your family and friends; it is worth doing that activity properly and to the best of your ability.
Elise is the managing partner at Capital Chemist Wanniassa and co-leader of the Wanni White Coats. Her passion and positivity are infectious.
You can find her and the Wanni White Coats on your social media platform of choice:
LinkedIn – Elise Apolloni
Twitter – Elise Apolloni