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Years of postgrad study culminates in Master's degree for specialist pharmacist

Friday, 4 August 2017 9:28pm

Paediatric pharmacist Rajeshni Naidu has always wanted to be a specialist pharmacist and with plenty of hard work, study and help from staff at the Otago School of Pharmacy, she has achieved her goal.

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"I thought it was amazing that they could actually individualise the programme, tailoring the course to my needs at that level."

Rajeshni has been a specialist paediatric pharmacist at Kidz First Hospital in Middlemore Hospital, Auckland, since 2009.

Since graduating with her Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the school in 2002, she has accumulated a wealth of experience in a wide variety of pharmacy practice in hospital and community pharmacy both in New Zealand and the UK and, together with continual postgraduate study, has achieved the necessary skills for her role.


Next month she graduates from Otago University with a Master’s in Clinical Pharmacy, following on from her Postgraduate Certificate in Medicines Management (2005) and Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pharmacy (2010).


She has enjoyed studying through distance education and says the fact she can continue to work fulltime while studying is hugely beneficial.


“I love my job, but it’s good to continue developing your professional education so you can take on board more up-to-date knowledge.”


Co-ordinator of the postgraduate studies programme, Dan Wright, says the Master’s programme has been offered as a distance course for practising pharmacists since 1987. In those days, it was a true correspondence course with most of the material and assessments exchanged via the post. The programme has been run using the internet as a teaching platform since the 1990s.


In the past few years, the addition of video-conferencing has greatly enhanced the ability of students to engage with each other and with tutors at a distance, Mr Wright says.


The Master’s course includes at least two advanced level taught papers as well as a dissertation or thesis. Most students complete one year of taught courses, including a research methods paper, and then one or one and a-half year’s part-time study conducting research.


Some of the papers have residential workshops, where students and tutors get together for a weekend of teaching and learning.


Rajeshni was particularly keen to ensure her Master’s degree was beneficial to her role at Kidz First and was pleased when school staff said they were happy to tailor the course to meet her needs.


“I thought it was amazing that they could actually individualise the programme, tailoring the course to my needs at that level.”


Her research looked at medicines management for children on discharge from hospital and she is grateful to paediatrician Ross Nicholson, pharmacist Debbie Bassett-Clarke and supervisor, June Tordoff for their support.


She found that in many cases families are not equipped with all necessary information on discharge about the medicines and how they should be taken, which is in line with findings from the recent New Zealand Health Quality and Safety Commission’s research on patients’ experience of healthcare.


It’s made her enthusiastic to see if she can help implement change in future to help improve the situation.


Rajeshni began her Master’s studies in 2014, but put things on hold after she contracted measles and ended up being hospitalised. She was very unwell and says while it was not a happy time in her life, it was a positive learning experience and highlighted the need for vaccinations.


She is full of praise for the support she has received from the School of Pharmacy during her postgraduate studies. “I decided to continue my studies at Otago because I enjoyed the environment and the people – and the support I got from the university and staff at the School of Pharmacy was fantastic.”


Every year since 2009, Rajeshni has volunteered to work in Fiji with the New Zealand Sai medical camp, working alongside other health professionals including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists to provide health services. In 2015, she also accompanied a medical team to Vanuatu post cyclone devastation.


For this work, she was nominated and selected as a finalist at the 2015 Pharmacy Awards for “Good Sort” Pharmacist of the Year.


Rajeshni is looking forward to travelling to Dunedin next month to graduate. “After 15 years of postgraduate study it will be nice to celebrate with my family.”


As for future studies? She’s made no plans, but more learning is on the agenda.


“I believe there’s no point doing research if you cannot implement your findings and if you can’t improve patient healthcare.”


Article written by Liane Topham-Kindley for the School of Pharmacy Newsletter V2I2, August 2017