August 24, 2023

44-Years Pharmacy Pioneer: Northern Health farewells Kathryn Brett

Since 1977, amidst a world of evolving medical breakthroughs and ever advancing technologies, one dedicated pharmacist has stood unwavering at Northern Health. Starting at PANCH as an intern after her studies, this pharmacist’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of the community has remained steadfast across four decades.

As we delve into the extraordinary journey of Kathryn Brett, we unravel the remarkable stories, the countless lives touched and the transformative impact that comes with dedicating oneself to a single institution for over 44 years.

Q: How does it feel to be retiring after all this time?

It feels very strange. I’ve been thinking about it seriously for a couple of years, but just in the last six months, I feel that it’s time to move on, while I’m well and fit, just to step back and enjoy myself. It will be very hard though, a bit of an adjustment, I can imagine.

Q: You have been at Northern Health since PANCH. Tell us a bit more about that?  

Yes. Wow! I was at PANCH where I worked many years, full time in all areas of the pharmacy, but mainly on the wards. I really liked the clinical pharmacy side.

There was a tiny little satellite pharmacy in the back corridor on the third floor of PANCH, where a few of us worked on the wards and that was just the beginning of ward pharmacy services, and it was great. I worked with all the wards, I worked with intensive care for a couple of years, which I really enjoyed. Then I had my first daughter and came back part time, and I’ve been working part time ever since.

In the last 10 years, I was in the Dispensary and have been working in the Outpatients area with all the specialist clinics like Haematology, Oncology and Infectious Diseases.

Tell us about your job, what is it like to be a pharmacist?

Being a pharmacist is very interesting but challenging at the same time. I work predominantly with patients and because these patients were coming back every month, I got to know them, and they got to know me. It is sometimes a problem-solving job, and it is fun. These patients would often confide in us things they wouldn’t confide even to the doctors. It’s been very rewarding in that sense.

Q: What have been some of the changes in pharmacy throughout the years?

Oh wow, you wouldn’t believe it! I come from the dinosaur age. When I first started, we all wore white starch coats and we had manual typewriters, would you believe it? No computers, manual typewriters, not even corrector ones, so if you made a mistake, you had to start again. Later, we got electric typewriters, which was pretty exciting. When I was on maternity leave, the first computers came in, and they were basic computers, no internet. I was quite scared about coming back because I hadn’t used computers before.

We also had reference books, big books and paper journals for our references. So, in that sense, technology has changed enormously. But the basics of pharmacy hasn’t changed. A lot has developed throughout the years and today we have many new positions around the hospital for pharmacists in specialised areas, which is fantastic.

Q: Can you tell us what have been some of your fondest memories throughout your career span of 44 years? I’m sure there’s been plenty.

I’ve worked with some great people, a lot of different people, a lot of different pharmacists. You work with them for a few years and then they’re off. Sometimes you see them again, sometimes you don’t, but they’re really good friends. In the last 10 years, I’ve really enjoyed working in such a multicultural department with a huge number of nationalities. It’s just been really fascinating. I’ve learned so much from them all and I really enjoyed that. I was about the only one who didn’t speak a second language. We’re a good team and we always try and go the extra mile to help people. Our job is often unseen actually, unseen, unheralded, but I think we do an important role and I’m extremely proud of that.

Q: Have there been any challenges along the way?

Oh yes, many challenges. The workload was enormous. We would get to work at 8.30 am every morning and the phone would start ringing. We had people coming to see us and not everyone was always patient. The usual challenges, working with lots of different people and lots of different departments.

I also worked with many young colleagues, younger than my children, which was great, but we were on different wavelengths. So, it was very interesting. They’ve kept me young and I think I’ve passed on a bit of wisdom to them.

Q: Did you ever think years ago you’d still be here today at Northern Health?

I never thought about still being here, but I always wanted to be a pharmacist, so that’s what I would do. Only once did I have a very small retail job after hours and I didn’t like it. Hospitals are much more interesting.

Q: What are your retirement plans?

I already booked a trip to Europe in October. My husband is still working, and he is going to keep working, but I hope to do a fair bit more travel, a bit more exercise, more Pilates, more walking, and just catching up with family.

Today is Kathryn Brett’s last day at Northern Health, marking the end of a remarkable journey. Director of Pharmacy, Vinod Chellaram, farewelled his colleague on behalf of the Pharmacy department with a heartfelt message.

“Congratulations on your retirement after an incredible 44 years of dedication! Your hard work and commitment have made a lasting impact on our team. Countless generations of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have benefited from your teaching and guidance. Wishing you a wonderful new chapter filled with relaxation, joy, and fulfillment. You will be deeply missed, but your legacy will continue to inspire us all. Best wishes for a happy and fulfilling retirement!”

From all of us here at Northern Health, farewell and thank you for your unwavering dedication and exceptional service!

Featured image: Kathryn Brett, Pharmacist.