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Balancing the Grind With Scott Walters, Pharmacist Proprietor & Health Informatician

Scott Walters is an Owner of a community pharmacy in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and Health Informatician. Scott also sits on the Clinical Council for the Sydney North Primary Health Network.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I graduated from USYD as a pharmacist in 2007 and began my career working in the hospital industry. After working in various institutions across Sydney and the UK, I then moved on to managing and eventually part purchasing a community pharmacy in Sydney’s Northern Beaches that I still own and operate today.

I have recently furthered my interests in the electronic health space, and have completed the nationally accredited exam to become a Health Informatician.

Today, I also work as a mentor guiding pharmacy interns in their final year of training as I moderate their online assessment programs, and I also sit on the Clinical Council for the Sydney North Primary Health Network, as well as various advisory committees in their jurisdiction as we work together to rectify healthcare gaps in the local community.

2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My day starts at 6am, when I get up to walk our dog. I really enjoy getting outside first thing before the rest of Sydney is up and about. I find it refreshing.

Then its straight to work, where I have brekky and a coffee whilst reading through the day’s emails, and preparing tasks for the team when they come in. We provide advice for our patients, run medication reviews, supply medications, offer a vaccination service, tools to help them organise their medications, as well as offering a delivery service where required.

In addition, I oversee the running a of a post office within my pharmacy, and the staff associated with that.

I’m also involved in piloting some programs in the eHealth space. At our store, we have implemented various electronic strategies to help improve workflows, collaboration with other health care professionals and overall streamlining of the healthcare process.

I regularly liaise with other practitioners in the area, as well as IT services , staff and patients alike, as we inform them of the benefits of these possible changes, and assist in the transition.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

As the only pharmacist on duty, I am required to be on site for the store to be open, so flexibility can be a bit of an issue. One way that I’m attempting to address this is by hiring another regular pharmacist. In having them, we will be able to support one another and provide a better work-life balance for each other.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

With many things on the go, its easy to get snowed under, or caught up in it all. Delegating work appropriately helps to ensure that every task is completed, and that my staff have a sense of ownership and opportunity to grow within their assigned areas.

It also means that I know that I can step back from those tasks, as I trust that my team will carry them out appropriately, giving me the space to work ON the business, rather than IN it.

5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

This concept has grown in importance for me in recent years. In 2017, I lost one of my closest friends to suicide, and my mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer. These two events really changed my perspective on how to deal with work, life and the stresses related to each.

I now find it ever more important to take time out for myself, and channel my energy into something positive. I make it part of my schedule that I go to the gym or take a run at least twice a week, as it allows time to clear my head, and get fit in the process. It also allows me to filter out all the energy, stress and thought processes of the week.

I have also taken time out of my career to focus on the broader issues of mental health. This year myself and some friends have established a newly created scholarship, in the name of my late friend, supporting research into mental health at the University of Sydney Pharmacy school.

The team is raising money through crowdfunding, philanthropic donations and charity events with the goal of creating an ongoing scholarship that will support research in this space throughout our lifetimes and beyond: Andrew Tu Scholarship in Pharmacy.

Having these outlets from my day to day work help maintain that work-life balance, as well as providing me with a sense of satisfaction and achievement that what we are doing can make a difference.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Understanding people is one of the hardest things to master. To this day I haven’t yet achieved that, which is what makes my job interesting as I’m constantly learning!

As humans, we engage with other humans day to day on many levels. Working with others adds yet another level of complexity to the interaction, and how we engage with our colleagues can impact not only yours and their mental health, but productivity, future engagements, and workplace satisfaction.

Understanding how and why people think, communicate and work differently really helps me, as a manager, harness the best possible skillset from each individual, and tailor projects to those persons strengths.

By truly listening to people, I’ve found it much easier to grasp where someone’s thought processes are coming from, and I can therefore help them to achieve a successful outcome for all involved.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

As an ex-English tutor, I have read many books, saw many movies and plays over the years.

My standout piece resonates with me today just as much as it did in 2002 when I was first to exposed to it. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is an existentialist play written by Tom Stoppard.

It holds true all the values that I stand by today; providing an alternative perspective by taking you “out of the box,” giving you the freedom to see situations and different light, and hold a greater value for them in a way which you may not have considered before.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I’m quite an ambitious person, so planning is key for me. Not only does setting a plan for the day allow me to remember everything I want to achieve, but it also allows me to factor in some down time. Having a timetable helps me keep on track, and ensures that I set myself realistic expectations for the day ahead.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Having perspective, and understanding and connecting with others is in my opinion, the best thing that one can do to help further their career. Taking this balance and perspective back home is the next step in the process.

Walking with my wife and our dog on the weekend gives me the opportunity to hear her perspectives, and reflect back on my own, outside of the chaos that can often be our working weeks. This time out is truly valuable, and is what drives me for the week ahead. That, to me, is true work life balance.

If you found the above conversation helpful and inspiring, be sure to check out Balance the Grind’s guide to achieving a healthy work-life balance.

About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.