Helping others feels good as it creates a sense of purpose

Read pharmacist and pharmacy lecturer Mok's story about how creative arts helps him with his mental wellbeing at work.

Zi Hong Mok is a lecturer in pharmacy at Swansea University, a regular weekend pharmacist at Boots, and a researcher in nanoparticles for drug delivery. On top of all that, he is also a professional dancer. In this story, he shares how his passion for dance supports him with his wellbeing at work.

Teaching, practising, and researching

I teach pharmaceutics for the MPharm programme, focusing on solid, semi-solid and liquid dosage forms. I share the latest innovations in drug delivery with my students as a pharmaceutical scientist. Within my pharmacy practice, I integrate formulation science to educate patients of their medications. Juggling the different roles allows me to carry out practice-based and evidence-informed teaching, but it comes with a cost – a 6-day workweek and an atypical work pattern.

Behind the scenes

In academia, it’s more than the teaching activity. Unnoticed workload includes working on course content and accreditation, managing and marking assessments, providing pastoral care to students, and writing research grants and publications to disseminate new knowledge. Preparing quality teaching resources also consumes a lot of time. Meanwhile, in pharmacy, the constant over-the-counter enquiries, ceaseless prescriptions and increasing pharmacy services are overwhelming. The unrelenting pace, understaffing and increasing expectations have caused pharmacy staff to face significant pressures, impacting on our health and wellbeing.

Support and motivation

In my busy schedule, I find peer support immensely helpful. For me, this is colleagues and professional services at the university, dispensers at the pharmacy, and postgraduate students in the laboratory. Having good relationships with them motivates me to come to work. There is also job satisfaction which comes from pharmacy students and patients showing appreciation for the work done for them. Personally, helping others feels good as it creates a sense of purpose. Working in both student-facing and patient-facing settings also helps to put things into perspective, and they excite me with different challenges.

Thinking on your feet

Speaking of challenges, one of them is thinking on your feet – metaphorically in the pharmacy with patient enquiries, but also literally for me as I enjoy dancing. As a form of exercise, it primes me for the day; as a social activity, it allows me to have something to look forward to after work. Dancing allows me to examine things more holistically and creatively, which I find is appreciated by patients, my colleagues, and pharmacy students. I am motivated to share dance as a fun and creative art therapy with colleagues in this line of work, because with the help of amazing dance teachers in the past, dance has helped to provide me with the relief of physical tension and emotional distress. Now, thanks to the Arts Council of Wales, I have been commissioned to create four dance videos to the Cultural Cwtsh creative wellbeing site. With these videos, I hope to encourage my fellow pharmacists, NHS and social care staff to take some time out, unlock their creativity and find solace, relaxation or just fun through the arts.

Mok created the Take a Chill Pill dance video to motivate pharmacy colleagues to find joy amid business.

Read pharmacist and pharmacy lecturer Mok's story about how creative arts helps him with his mental wellbeing at work.

Themes of dance videos

The four dance videos I am contributing explore the themes discussed in this article, which are:

  1. Our NHS at 75” to celebrate the dedicated and selfless NHS and social care workers
  2. You Okay?” to encourage people, especially men, to speak up about their mental health
  3. Got Your Back” to highlight the importance of friendship and peer support
  4. Take a Chill Pill” to motivate pharmacy colleagues to find joy amid business.

You can find these on the Cultural Cwtsh creative wellbeing site. It has taken six months to plan, rehearse, execute, and edit. I hope they will inspire you in some way or another to prioritise your mental health and wellbeing, to know that you are not alone, to speak about your emotions and to reach out.

I am also with you. You can reach out to me on here.

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