About Us

The Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS) works on the principle of pharmacists supporting pharmacists. 

The service provides a listening ear over the telephone to pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and students. We also receive calls from family, friends, colleagues and pharmacy staff who are concerned about a pharmacist. 

The volunteers who take the calls are all pharmacists and are trained in the crisis model of telephone counselling to support their colleagues. Training and support for the volunteers is provided by psychologists.

A 1300 telephone number is used to limit the cost to callers (it is the cost of a local call). The volunteers are equipped with a mobile phone when they are on duty to receive the calls.

Callers are able to remain anonymous to enhance confidentiality. The only time confidentiality would be broken is if a caller or another person is at risk of harm.

The focus of the service is support, empowerment and information provision rather than advice. Volunteers are equipped with information and resources to assist with referring callers when necessary.

In supporting pharmacists, PSS aims to benefit the public by ensuring that pharmacists maintain their health and well-being and so are able to provide an appropriate level of service to the Australian community.

The type of issues leading pharmacists to seek support from PSS include (but are not limited to) crime related trauma, workplace and workload concerns, employment matters, substance abuse, mental health issues, suicide, ill-health, difficulties arising from professional and financial pressures, practice matters and ethical issues. A common feature is stress.

Navigate through the options below to find out more about our organisation.

When can I ring?

The Service is available 365 days of the year from 8.00am to 11.00pm. If the phone is not answered within 10 rings leave your number and your call will be returned as soon as possible. For urgent assistance when we are not available call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

What kind of issues can the Service help me with?

Work-related stress, trauma from a hold-up, professional and personal concerns. In addition to being a listening ear, the volunteer counsellors provide information, support and referrals to appropriate services.

Are the volunteer pharmacists taking my call trained?

Yes. All pharmacists involved as volunteers receive extensive training in peer support and telephone counselling. The volunteers are also supported by an extensive network of professional counsellors and support groups.

Is my call confidential?

The service is discreet and anonymous. You are not required to disclose your identity. Your call will be treated confidentially unless you or someone else is at risk of harm.

I know a pharmacist who could use the services? Can I ring you?

Yes, we do accept calls from colleagues, friends and family. However, we are subject to privacy legislation. We also welcome any information that may help us improve our outreach work.

I would like to become a volunteer. How can I do that?

The Pharmacists’ Support Service is always on the lookout for new volunteers. You will undergo extensive training and course work before you take any calls. You can send us an inquiry via our contact page.

The Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS) was established in 1995 by the Victorian Branch of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA). The PSS was formed in response to advice from the Doctors Health Advisory Service (DHAS) which had received requests for help from some pharmacists. DHAS was an organisation set up at that time to assist medical practitioners with health problems.

Valerie Constable, who was at the time a Councillor of PSA (Victoria), established PSS with the assistance of a support group of volunteer pharmacists who freely offered their time out of concern for their fellow pharmacists. PSS is indebted to Val for the drive and energy she devoted to setting up PSS from its inception and being the main contact person for the early part of its operation. PSS works on the principle of pharmacists supporting pharmacists. PSS appreciates the significant generosity of its team of volunteers who have continued to provide support to their peers every day of the year since 1995.

Over time and with an increasing number of calls from outside Victoria, PSS identified a need to expand and seek support from the broader pharmacy profession. In February 2010 PSS became an independent incorporated association in order to expand the service outside Victoria. Now, PSS has representatives on the Management Committee from a range of national pharmacy organisations including PSA, Pharmaceutical Defence Ltd (PDL), the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA), Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA), the Australian Friendly Societies Pharmacies Association (AFSPA), the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria Ltd (PSV). These organisations fund and support the work of PSS. The National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association (NAPSA) is also represented by an observer on the PSS Management Committee.

PSS is now a charity and has been granted deductible gift recipient status (DGR) and taxation concessions by the ATO. We welcome donations from the broader pharmacy profession.

In March 2011, Kay Dunkley was awarded the Cyril Tonkin Travel Fellowship and travelled to the United Kingdom to meet with representatives of a range of organisations which provide support to pharmacists and doctors. The findings of this study tour have provided direction and a model for the future development of PSS.

PSS has now expanded from its Victorian base to all states and territories of Australia, and has truly become a national service which provides support to pharmacists, pharmacy students, and interns throughout Australia. PSS now requires adequate ongoing funding from the profession to support the continuing work of the service.

Governance

The Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS) is an association incorporated in Victoria under the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012. PSS was incorporated on 26 February 2010 and is known as Pharmacists’ Support Service Inc. and has an organisation number of A0054169K. The Pharmacists’ Support Service is registered with the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission and is endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient. Our ABN is 15814376015.

PSS has representatives on the Management Committee from a range of national pharmacy organisations who are members of PSS including the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), Pharmaceutical Defence Ltd (PDL), the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA), Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA – Pharmacy Division of Professionals Australia), the Australian Friendly Societies Pharmacies Association (AFSPA), the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA), the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria Ltd. These organisations fund and support the work of PSS. The National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association (NAPSA) is also represented by an observer.

The Committee of Management of PSS comprises nine representatives of member pharmacy organisations and four representatives of the PSS volunteers. Volunteers’ names are not listed in order to maintain the anonymity of their role. The Executive Officer of PSS is the Secretary/Public Officer.

PSS also is pleased to have Paul Baker, Meridian Lawyers, as our Honorary Solicitor.

The current committee is listed below:

President: John Coppock (as a PSS volunteer representative)

Vice President: John Jackson (representative of PSV Ltd)

Treasurer: A PSS volunteer

Secretary: Kay Dunkley (Executive Officer)

Ordinary members:

Faye McMillan (representative of APC)

Peter Fell (representative of AFSPA)

Curtis Ruhnau (representative of PDL)

Stan Goma (representative of PGA)

Cardin Le (representative of PPA)

Jarrod McMaugh (representative of PSA)

Kylee Hayward (representative of SHPA)

Two PSS volunteers.

Observer: Ellen Jeon (representative of NAPSA)

Honorary Solicitor: Paul Baker (Meridian Lawyers)

Click on the logos below to visit the websites of these organisations.

The PSS Constitution can be downloaded here:

PSS Constitution

PSS Strategic Plan 2021

Recognising:

  • the fundamental need of the Australian community to have a sound, safe and professionally functioning network of community and public pharmacists; and
  • the pressures and problems that community and public pharmacists face in connection with the performance of their professional duties.

The object of the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS) is to afford assistance and support in necessitous cases to persons who are practising pharmacists, pharmacy interns and students in Australia.

This assistance and support shall take the form of direct counselling and support services provided through the PSS network of volunteers. There may be cases, however, where particular issues cannot be resolved by PSS volunteers and in these circumstances volunteers may make arrangements for referral to other suitably qualified professionals.

The circumstances and difficulties affecting pharmacists in relation to which PSS provides assistance and support include (but are not limited to) substance abuse, crime related trauma, suicide, sickness and health (including mental health) problems and difficulties arising from professional and financial pressures. Incidentally, PSS also aims to raise awareness among pharmacists of the importance of maintaining health and well being as an essential aspect of competency to practice as a pharmacist and to meet the needs and expectations of the Australian community in relation to pharmacy services.

Thank you to these NAPSA participants for creating these wonderful videos!

NAPSA’s talent shines again in the times of COVID-19 with this reminder to call PSS!
NAPSA students perform an amazing song and dance routine on behalf of PSS!
PSS rap brought to you by NAPSA!

Thank you to Andrew McLachlan, the Head of School and Dean of Pharmacy in the Sydney Pharmacy School of the University of Sydney, for facilitating this chat with one of our PSS Board Members, Curtis Ruhnau.