Margaret Ruhnau

Four women embracing, turned away from the camera, overlaid with text 'International Women's Day. Women of Pharmacy in Focus'.

International Women’s Day 2023: Women of Pharmacy in Focus Series

This year for International Women’s Day we are highlighting women across the pharmacy industry in Australia who are at different stages of their careers. Our interview subject today is Margaret Ruhnau, a pharmacy owner and accredited HMR pharmacist. We interviewed Margaret during a break in a busy day at the pharmacy and share her words below.

March 8th: Interview with Margaret Ruhnau

What is your name and role?

Margaret Ruhnau – we own the pharmacy so we are actively in here all the time. I’m Home Medicine Review accredited and I also have done the Diabetes educator course, but I’m not accredited in diabetes education. 
My role here in the pharmacy is mostly management and medication reviews, so I see the diabetes patients, and I end up helping a lot with management of the retail side of the business. I’m qualified to do all that but where most of my time is spent really is between that counselling role and the managing of the other side of the business. The smaller the business the more you’re involved!

What challenges do you experience in your work?

As a pharmacist and a manager, you’re the stopping point in the pharmacy. Even if you’re a young pharmacist, when you’re the person in charge, you’re responsible for everything that goes on, whether it’s you doing it or not. 

We’re very fortunate because we have a really good team of pharmacists and we’re not understaffed: I believe a lot of places are understaffed at the moment which can also put pressure on you. I’m sure many pharmacists feel the time pressure when the pharmacy is busy, but I’m at that age now where I just say “we’re really busy and I’m sorry but it’s going to take this long”, and as an owner I don’t feel that sort of pressure so much anymore. Curtis [Curtis Ruhnau, Margaret’s husband and pharmacy co-owner] and I try not to roster ourselves on so we are always available as two extra people to come in. 

Margaret Ruhnau

We’ve got a very lovely team of people here so I think the biggest challenge would be with customers, coming from stock supply issues and frustration where people can’t get their stock. From a management point of view that’s a concern and causes understandable anxiety for the customers.

How do you look after yourself and maintain your wellbeing?

I try to walk each morning, just to get that exercise and get out of my head. During COVID, work was all-consuming: we were busy all the time, seven days a week. This year, I have been trying to only do work at work – not doing any bookwork at home – instead I try to do that when I’m at the shop. That’s a way of self caring. 
I like to crochet: I make things and I find it very therapeutic to make things. I’m currently seeing a psychologist which helps – those are both really “self care” things. We try to make sure we get holidays regularly and we encourage our staff to make sure they are having all their breaks and holidays. Everyone is refreshed after a couple of weeks off. 
As an owner, you have to give yourself permission to say “I’m not going to think about that until tomorrow”. We’re not on call 24 hours, and we try not to do that to our staff: you really have to have that ‘cutoff’ between home and work. A good thing about being older is learning what can wait and what needs to be attended to quickly. And you always learn when things go wrong: your biggest stuff-ups are your biggest learning opportunities.

What do you value about the Pharmacists’ Support Service?

When I was a very young pharmacist, there wasn’t anything like this around, and I know some of my worst mistakes I made when I was younger, and I think I would have loved to have had something like this – to talk to people who were older and more experienced. 
I had good peers and good role models around me though, and I think that’s key. Pharmacists often have a different personality: we like to check things and we tend to be more self-critical. We are humans and we’re not perfect and the customers aren’t perfect: we just have to keep that in mind when things happen. I have recommended PSS to other people, but I wish it was around back in the 80s when I started – that’s all I can say! I think it’s a really valuable service and I’m happy to support it!

Thank you for reading today’s profile and for following along this week! That concludes our series profiling different women in pharmacy in the lead up to International Women’s Day, which is today! Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s continue to celebrate women and their amazing contributions to pharmacy.

We would also like to thank all of our brilliant contributors to this series on Australian women in pharmacy: Jessica, Mahek, Natalie and Margaret. Thank you for sharing your stories with us and for your awesome work!

Find out more about Margaret’s work along with her husband Curtis here:
Read more about International Women’s Day here: