Kay Dunkley – a pharmacist’s perspective on the three principle qualities of mindfulness

“The day of a pharmacist is usually busy, we move from one patient to the next, dispensing medicine and advice and assisting people with minor ailments. Following-up prescribers, checking the work of pharmacy technicians, demonstrating devices, providing education, writing reports, reconciling medications and answering our phones and pagers keep us on the go all day. In addition, we often work in noisy and busy environments. However, we are expected to work quickly and not keep people waiting at the same time as communicating well and never making an error.

Often in patient’s healthcare journey we are the last healthcare professional they see before they go home and our interaction with them is critical to their understanding of their treatment. All of this can create a stressful environment for pharmacists which can impact on our well-being.

Mindfulness is not only useful to improve our own mood and a sense of well-being, it also makes us better healthcare professionals. Mindfulness is valuable because it enables us to be in the moment, focussing on what we are doing despite distractions. It also enables us to be present for the patient, listening to what they are saying and responding in an empathic way.


Practising mindful attention helps us to slow down and consciously think about what we are doing. Whether this is dispensing or communicating or problem solving we are less likely to make a mistake or miss something.


Developing a sense of curiosity inspires us to question more and dig deeper. This is useful to build rapport and foster empathy with patients. It is also valuable to help us identify something that is not quite right – rather than acting on autopilot we are more likely to think things through and to question a dose or directions or the choice of medication. It is also helpful in problem solving when asking a few more questions may produce a solution.


Listening deeply without judgement, interruption or preconceptions improves our communication with patients and also fellow health professionals. When a patient feels understood the risk of miscommunication and error is reduced and they are more likely to listen to us and the information we are providing. When we communicate respectfully and with careful thought with another health professional there is less likely to be a misunderstanding and we are more likely to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone involved but especially the patient.

Mindful pharmacists enjoy a more satisfying career, have improved relationships with colleagues and other health professionals and contribute to better outcomes for patients.”

kay dunkleyAfter forging a career based in hospital pharmacy prior to having children, Kay has also been involved in roles providing services which support pharmacists and other health professionals. These roles have included working for the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (Victorian Branch), the Victorian Drug Usage Advisory Committee (VDUAC), the Victorian Medicines Advisory Committee (VMAC) and the Victorian Therapeutics Advisory Group (VicTAG). Currently Kay is employed as the Executive Officer of the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS).

The role with PSS lead to employment by AMA Victoria to establish and coordinate their Peer Support Service. At AMA Victoria Kay also coordinates the Peer Visitor Program which matches elderly isolated doctors with volunteer visitors who are medical students or doctors. In addition she shares the role of coordinating the doctor in training mentoring program at AMA Victoria.

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