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Published Wednesday 10 Jan 2024

We talked to Kathryn Lawrie about being made a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand

In the realm of pharmacy, recognition is often elusive but highly valued. Recently, Kathryn Lawrie, Clinical Team Leader – Pharmacy at Wellington Regional Hospital was made a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand; a prestigious recognition, and extremely well deserved. 

Fellowships are awarded for outstanding achievements and significant contribution to the advancement of pharmacy practice in New Zealand. Kathryn has been an advocate for clinical pharmacists during her 16 years working at Wellington Regional Hospital, highlighting their value through systems she’s been involved with putting in place.

We caught up with Kathryn to find out what inspired her to get into pharmacy, how her time in the Pharmacy Department at Wellington Regional Hospital has shaped her career, and what this recognition meant to her. 

What was your reaction when you found out you’d been made a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand? 
"It was obviously an amazing surprise, I wasn’t expecting it at all. Initially, I felt a bit of imposter syndrome but I thought, no, people have nominated me for reasons, and I need to own it.  

My instant reaction was ‘I’m not old enough for that’ and then I realised that I have been a pharmacist for 20 years now."

What’s the process of being made a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand?
"It’s based on citations from colleagues. I nominated somebody for it a few years ago, and we had to get a number of people they were working with involved in the process. It then gets reviewed by the Pharmaceutical Society Board and the executive board. 

I haven’t seen any of the citations or anything that went forward, and I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to. I’m not even technically supposed to know who’s nominated me, but have picked up on a few comments from colleagues so have an idea."

How did you get into working in pharmacy? 
"My first job was in a community pharmacy when I was 14 back in the UK. I did it as a work experience programme through school and from there I decided, that’s what I wanted to do. I just loved the combination of the science and the physical and medical parts, but also being there to help people, interacting with the patients.

I came to New Zealand in 2006 and got a job at Wellington Regional Hospital working as a foundation pharmacist (we used to call it rotation pharmacist). We were only planning to come here for two years but we loved Wellington so much that we’ve ended up raising our children here."

Why’d you choose Wellington? 

"I knew I wanted to be somewhere that had a decent sized pharmacy department so it was a choice between Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. Auckland is too big so we crossed a line through that. And I was into scuba diving at the time so wanted to be in the North Island so Wellington it was. The scuba kit still sits in the loft but I don’t get out as much as I used to. It’s more paddleboarding on a Wellington good day now!"

How has your role changed in your time working at Wellington Regional Hospital? 
"I started as a foundation pharmacist, working mostly in the production unit and surgical wards, and then I went into education and training, which at the time was a new role we developed to look after our interns. I did that role for eight years and in 2017 I took on the Clinical Team Leader role where I currently have 23 staff reporting to me; our patient facing pharmacy staff on the wards.

I was initially only going to do this role for one year and in that year there were two things I really wanted to implement: one was mentoring, so we set up a system where everybody’s got somebody they can go to if they need advice and the second was being able to show the value of clinical pharmacists because a lot of people don’t understand what we do.

I’ve got a good Don Berwick quote on my door which says ‘the names of the patients whose lives we’ve saved can never be known. Our contribution will be what did not happen to them’. So often if you don't know that a pharmacist has been involved, that's a good thing.  There will have been a pharmacist involved in almost all patient care. And it's about making sure that the drugs that are being prescribed are clinically appropriate for that patient.

We’ve also worked with IT to put in place a prioritization tool that categorises all patients on any ward into a risk (low, medium and high). Our pharmacists know when they get to the wards that they're not going to be able to see everybody, so this tool helps them target patients who will benefit most from their care. And alongside that, because we know any electronic tool has flaws, there's also a way that nursing or any clinical staff can refer patients using the white electronic whiteboards."


Kathryn celebrating 'Pharmacy Day' 2023 with her colleagues

What does a normal day look like for you? 
'My job is 50/50. So, with the 23 people who report to me, that’s only 50 percent of my time. The rest is clinical time of the wards. I cover all sorts of areas, and I tend to be a gap filler because if I can see what my staff are doing, then I know how to best support them and they know that I’ve lived and breathed what their role is.  

The area I’ve kept coming back to throughout the last 15 years is renal, and renal transplant patients. It’s a life changing experience they’ve gone through, and it can be very overwhelming for them so we’ve put in place a whole education package that I go through with the patients and their whānau, because the more sets of ears, the better. We review the medication for them and help get them ready for discharge. It’s really important for them to understand what they’re taking and why."

Are there any achievements you’re particularly proud of outside of your work at Wellington Regional Hospital?
"I’m on the executive for the New Zealand Hospital Pharmacists Association. It’s a volunteer executive, so there’s six of us working very hard to represent New Zealand hospital pharmacy staff. We’ve got 500 members who are striving to make hospital pharmacies a place where people can come and feel like they belong.

I’ve recently helped build them a new website and member management system which has been a huge project that I’m really proud of. We had our AGM last month where I was appointed for another three years which is great.

Being part of this group has allowed me to establish a good connection with hospital pharmacists around Aotearoa. Long before the establishment of Te Whatu Ora, it’s always been felt ‘why would we do something 20 times?’. So, if there’s a clinical protocol I’m working on, I’ll always ask whether somebody has done it before, and see if we can adopt work from other places, as well as sharing what we have done here."

What’s the process from here with being made a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand? 
"From what I understand there will be some sort of ceremony. They’ll be in touch with me when that’s to happen so watch this space."