Áine FitzGerald works as a pharmacist in Boots, Maynooth and holds a Master’s of pharmacy from Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Here, she outlines her career path to date.

Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?

This was a very difficult decision for me, and took a lot of deliberation before I settled on this career. In secondary school my grades were similar across all of my subjects, and I enjoyed most of them, so I was a career guidance teacher’s nightmare.

I am also a musician and have won many All-Ireland titles at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and it was my fear that I would turn my passion into apathy that almost made me choose against this career path.

In the end it was my interest in biology, healthcare and in helping other people that compelled me to put pharmacy on my CAO form.

How did you decide on what course to study/college to attend?

While pharmacy was my number one option, in some ways I left it up to fate. I knew I wanted to go to RCSI if I was to do pharmacy because of the structure of the course, the state-of-the-art facilities, the healthcare focus of the college, and how it is very patient-centred, so I put that at the top.

After that, I put the other pharmacy colleges, medicine, and primary teaching in order of my preference, and crossed my fingers and toes that the Leaving Cert would go well.

What skills do you need to become a pharmacist?

Innately you need to be a people person and have a good work ethic. It is a very sociable profession but requires a lot of hard work to get the master’s degree. In college you are guided to develop all of the other essential skills needed such as leadership, decision-making, communication and organisational skills.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

I love how much I get to interact with patients and help so many people on a day-to-day basis. With community pharmacy continually expanding its services, I find it very rewarding to be able to diagnose and treat minor ailments in the pharmacy and be able to direct people to the help they need.

I also love the teamwork aspect of community pharmacy – everything runs like a machine and everyone holds an important part in the running of it.

What do you find the most challenging aspect of your career?

Making the final decision. For example, it could be a Saturday evening and I cannot get through to the doctor in the hospital and the GP is closed until Monday, yet this dose of essential medication for a newborn baby is outside the normal range. Does this baby need this to survive, or will this high dose harm them? While this may seem like an extreme scenario, things like this happen every single day in a pharmacy.

What would your advice be to someone considering a career in pharmacy?

Talk to a pharmacist. It is a very challenging yet rewarding career with endless opportunities. Your typical community pharmacist is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many different types of jobs available in industry, hospital, and other role-emerging areas. A pharmacy degree opens up a wealth of opportunities – if you think you might like pharmacy, you will almost certainly find a niche that suits you.