Having graduated from King’s College London in 2019, it may be early days for Nyrah Saleem’s career, but her enthusiasm has reignited her colleagues’ passion for pharmacy. Her nominator described Saleem as a “breath of fresh air”, standing out for her dedication to improving public knowledge of what a pharmacist can offer.
In her current role as lead clinical pharmacist for Mid Essex Primary Care Network (PCN), Saleem loves being able to go that one step further and “change the way we prescribe for high-risk patients” in the GP practice and four care homes on her patch.
Within her PCN, Saleem has carried out more than 3,000 structured medication reviews for patients with long-term conditions in the past 12 months, and created several clinical management plans for care home patients who had been overlooked as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under her guidance, the PCN’s quality and outcomes indicators for dementia, heart failure and hypertension have improved. Within the space of three months, the number of dementia reviews increased, freeing up GP appointments and ensuring high quality patient care.
Saleem has also started working with a care home for young adults with disability and going out of her way to do extra visits. What makes her job worthwhile are the patients who come back to her and say, “no one had ever done this for me before”. Saleem recalls one patient who was on long-term high-dose morphine and hadn’t had a medication review for more than 18 months as a result of COVID-19.
“All the time she wasn’t in any pain, and she wanted to stop taking it,” Saleem says. “I ran a project to cut all these patients on long-term painkillers to a lower, safer dose and she really appreciated that. It’s just going that extra mile to improve safety in the practice as a whole.”
Saleem’s work with care homes comes full circle from her first part-time job before university in a community pharmacy, where she also helped look after many patients in care homes. That motivation to make things safer and better for patients was there even then, she notes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Saleem was prompted to set up Instagram and TikTok accounts to help correct the growing amount of inaccurate health information online. Saleem created a series of videos giving accessible advice on skin conditions, diabetes, insect bites, polycystic ovarian syndrome, hayfever and blood pressure. Her TikTok account has since garnered 300,000 followers and her growing profile has led to interviews on ITV’s This Morning, and BBC News, among other media outlets such as the Mirror and Metro newspapers.
“During lockdown I noticed a lot of health myths online and I decided to find a way to break down these myths, and provide people with information that is safe and guidance they can use at home if they didn’t have access to their local pharmacy,” she explains.
“I was invited on Sky News to talk about how pharmacists can help because I also wanted to raise more awareness of what a pharmacist actually does.”
As one of a number of pharmacists on social media, she didn’t expect to get the attention she did. “Hopefully it will encourage more younger students to consider taking up pharmacy,” she adds.
Saleem has also created a book, available on Amazon, to help patients and nursing students understand blood test results. “I remember my first job, as a GP pharmacist, completely thrown in the deep end, so I thought it would be helpful to create a book and a guideline for nursing students and patients who actually just want to know what the symptoms are and what they mean, and what’s a normal range,” she said. “It’s been pretty popular among a lot of pharmacy students as well.”
She also created a journal for helping people manage anxiety and stress, with one teacher from Kenya contacting her to say that he had bought them for his students.
Looking towards the future, Saleem says that one day she may run her own clinics for the PCN or in collaboration with the NHS. “I really want to show people what you can do with a pharmacy degree and the doors that can open for you as well as ways you can help patients, not just being behind a counter.”
“Nyrah’s influence on outcomes within her own practice is considerable, but it’s the way she has harnessed the power of social media for good that is outstanding.”
“Nyrah has achieved an incredible amount at such a young age, using social media to portray pharmacy in a positive light.”
- Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2023 here