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HST Blog

May 17
A day in the life of Thandeka Mzulwini, HST’s Pharmacist for uMgungundlovu District

​by Siyabonga Gema - HST Communications Officer

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As the country progresses towards universal health coverage as envisaged by the World Health Organization (WHO), the role of primary health care and, in particular, pharmacists as a first point of contact with people seeking medical advice, couldn't be more crucial.

At the Health Systems Trust (HST), our high calibre of pharmacy professionals places us centrally in providing the necessary support in human and technical resources to the Department of Health in pursuit of equitable health for all.

Thandeka Mzulwini, HST's Pharmacist based in uMgungundlovu District, had a brief chat with the Communications Unit and gave us a glimpse of her professional and personal life.

Why did you choose a career in Pharmacy?

I wanted to provide clients with an incomparable service in the healthcare field by ensuring the safe and effective use of medication, providing health advice and pharmacy-initiated therapy to the community without being consulted by a nurse or doctor, especially in this economic landscape. The pharmacy field offers diverse opportunities and is not limited to community or hospital work; it also opens doors to research and development, academia, regulatory affairs, and industrial and clinical pharmacy.

What qualities does one need to thrive in this field?

One has to be passionate about helping others with their health needs; you must have patience, be non-judgemental, impartial, compassionate, and eager to learn every day for continuous self-development.

Do you think people understand the important role that Pharmacists play in health care?

At the National Department of Health, it is not well represented, and within the institutions, we still observe health decisions taken without pharmacy input. Pharmacists should be heading the anti-microbial stewardship programmes combatting microbial resistance, heading Central Chronic Medicines Dispensing and Distribution (CCMDD) strategies, and should give inputs in the transportation of medicines from other countries to maintain the cold chain and medicine stability. So many gaps exist, and this should be addressed.

The general public is familiar with doctors and nurses, but they are not fully aware of what pharmacists do and some do not consider pharmacy as part of the healthcare sector. In some instances, people may use community pharmacies as a shortcut to get medication if they cannot afford consultations.

How do you stay up to date with new medical trends and information?

I attend health training sessions and do lots of reading on Department of Health guidelines, research articles, and package leaflets of generic drugs. In my field, doing research on new conditions or diseases and always reading public health websites is a crucial part of a Pharmacist's professional development. The benefit is that it creates self-confidence.

What's your biggest career highlight thus far?

After completing my Honours Degree in Pharmacy, I was unsure which field to choose within pharmacy. Working for a non-governmental organisation has assisted in directing me to aspire to further my studies. I have developed an interest in HIV/AIDS and TB management as the leading disease burden in our country. I am currently doing my Master's degree to gain more insight into public health challenges and how to overcome challenges in my current role as a Pharmacist working for HST. 

Take us through a typical day at work

My work involves data interpretation in the Dablapmeds programme / differentiated care model as a vehicle for medicine accessibility and adherence. I support the uMgungundlovu District's facilities and Dablapmeds external pick-up points in ensuring service delivery, capacitating prescribers in utilising the available systems, and following standard operating procedures guided by DoH guidelines. I also support HST's Mobile Pharmacy services and Pelebox innovations, and attend to patient queries at the district level.

What's your take on ethical behaviour in your field?

An individual decides to maintain professional responsibility in adhering to ethical standards of pharmacy and upholding the code of conduct and regulations. Prioritising patients' needs and interests should be top of mind, treating all patients fairly, with integrity, and reserving judgements and personal beliefs.

How do you spend time away from work?

As a family-orientated person, I believe in quality time with my family and church. But this year, I have a lot of studying which is taking up most of my time. However, when I do get the time, you will find me out and about with my family or in church.

What inspires you?

Waking up every day to fight for a better future.  Achieving set goals and overcoming obstacles. Doing good in people's lives and staying true to myself.

How would you advise someone who wants to pursue a career in pharmacy?

They must work to obtain good results in Matric. Competition for university entry is very high, so it's in their best interest to work extra hard. They must do research about pharmacy before applying, and decide if they have a passion to become a Pharmacist and, mostly, they must fall in love with the career. The academic context is huge, but manageable if you put in the extra effort. It is also important to do research on approved institutions which offer pharmacy.



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