What value does RPS Faculty membership add to pharmacists’ career portfolios?

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Faculty offers the opportunity for pharmacists to seek professional recognition. Gareth Malson investigates what membership means in terms of employability and pay.

Illustration of a man balancing between positive and negative blocks

Since 2013, membership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Faculty has offered pharmacists an opportunity to map their development against a framework for advance pharmacy practice.

“It is the first opportunity for pharmacists to have our ability to practise externally validated,” explains Nina Barnett, Faculty fellow and consultant pharmacist for care of older people at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, north west London. “Faculty accreditation offers professional endorsement, public assurance and personal satisfaction regarding our ability to practise pharmacy. It will serve as a ‘kitemark’ of quality for any potential future employer.”

However, does membership translate into a tangible benefit for pharmacists — either in terms of career development or money earned? And is it something that employers are actively seeking?

Value for money

At £300 for Faculty assessment and at least £50 a year for ongoing membership, it is worth considering whether applying for the programme represents a sound investment. “It depends on how you measure value for money,” says Adam Sutherland, senior clinical pharmacist for paediatrics at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. “Do I get more from the RPS for the money I pay? Probably not yet. However, the process documents my practical experience and offers peer-assessed assurance of my ability. Ultimately someone could ask, for example, what right I have to make recommendations for the development of a service. Faculty membership provides assurance of my credentials.”

Anthony Cadogan, Macmillan lead oncology pharmacist at Cwm Taf University Health Board, believes the process is worth going through. “I had never before been benchmarked against other pharmacists in my field. It was reassuring to learn I am operating at an appropriate level and that I’m heading in the right direction from a career perspective.”

The employers’ perspective

When it comes to employers engaging with the Faculty, Cwm Taf University Health Board in Wales has gone further than any other. “I expect all my pharmacist employees to be members of the RPS and to engage with Faculty membership — and this will become essential criteria for all pharmacist jobs that I advertise within the next few years,” says Howard Rowe, the board’s head of medicines management. “I believe that Faculty membership shows that a person is motivated to develop themselves professionally — and this is the sort of person that I want working at my organisation.”

There will come a time when having a diploma will not be enough to secure a senior post and you will need to provide further evidence of competence

While this position is not held unanimously by NHS employers, Sutherland believes that it offers an indication of future direction. “The postgraduate clinical diploma provides a base level of knowledge to help hospital pharmacists during their early years of practice,” he suggests. “However, there will come a time when having a diploma will not be enough to secure a senior post and you will need to provide further evidence of competence.”

The view of Alison Ewing, clinical director of pharmacy and therapies for Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, is more circumspect: “Faculty membership shows me that a pharmacist is committed to progressing and gives them a way to make themselves stand out. That said, I believe membership should remain optional; if you make it a mandatory requirement of employment then, at present, you may miss out on hiring good people.”

When it comes to community pharmacy and industry employers, most are yet to formulate an official position so were unwilling to put anything on record. Boots UK, however, was happy to state that it fully supports pharmacists who wish to join the Faculty by reimbursing 50% of the submission fee and 50% of the ongoing membership fees.

Scottish pharmacy chain Right Medicine Pharmacy supports its pharmacists’ access to professional development “as much as possible, in practical ways”, according to Jonathan Burton, the company’s co-owner and pharmacist.

“We offer peer discussion and development days for our recently qualified pharmacists, utilising the RPS foundation framework, and any of our more experienced pharmacists who are interested in engaging with the Faculty can access advice and support,” he adds. “The company will fund the cost of submitting a portfolio when the time is right for an individual.”

Employability matters

When it comes to commissioning services (for example, from community pharmacies), Rowe thinks Faculty membership is an important factor to consider. “If a pharmacist approached me with a request to develop or deliver a service, I would have more assurance that they could deliver that service if that person was a Faculty member,” he says.

Having become a Faculty fellow herself, Ewing is keen to help others do the same. “I currently have more interaction with staff going through the Faculty process because I offer them advice on developing their portfolios. However, the Faculty hasn’t expanded sufficiently, at this stage, for us to identify a difference between those who are members and those who aren’t.”

Similarly, a spokesperson for Boots UK highlighted: “Faculty membership will be a useful factor in the future but, presently, we are not seeing many applications that indicate a pharmacist’s Faculty membership. Boots UK has not made adjustments to its recruitment processes as a result but feels encouraged and sees that it is a good indicator that an individual has invested in their own professional development.”

Rowe believes there are three types of pharmacists when it comes to Faculty engagement. “There are those who are members already — these are the innovators who tend to want recognition of their work. There are those who will never engage — these tend to be people who are less interested in developing themselves at the workplace. And there are those who need convincing of the benefits of membership — invariably, they need support and guidance to enable them to get over the perceived hurdles of becoming Faculty members.”

Using the personal development plan

Once a submitted portfolio of evidence has been reviewed, Faculty members get a personal development plan (PDP) to help identify what to do next. “It was useful to reflect on where I wanted to go in terms of my career and determine how I was going to get there,” Cadogan says. “We have had useful discussions at work about maintaining momentum from the process and the Faculty PDP is going to be implemented into our internal appraisal process.”

Externally reviewed feedback are invaluable especially for those who work in isolation

Some highlight that although the content of a PDP is predictable, it is still valuable. “If you go through the Faculty portfolio building process thoroughly you should be able to anticipate what a lot of it will say,” Burton points out. “However, there will be a few extra ideas and pieces of feedback that result from having your portfolio externally reviewed and those views are invaluable — especially for practitioners who work in isolation much of the time.”

Sutherland adds: “Originally, I thought the PDP was of little use because it merely highlighted the deficiencies in my practice portfolio that I’d already identified. However, when I looked back at it later on, knowing the areas of competency where I was below mastery level gave me focus for my future development.”

Does Faculty membership affect income?

Can Faculty members expect to earn more money automatically than those who are not? “No, but I would be more likely to grant non-monetary rewards — such as requests to go on training courses — to Faculty members,” Rowe suggests. “That said, they are more likely to make such requests because these are the people who take greater ownership for their professional development.”

Ewing adds: “It doesn’t get rewarded directly with increased pay but it gives people a way to identify their learning needs and it validates their work to date. Eventually, it will help people to get higher grade jobs more quickly.”

Why become a Faculty member?

“I would definitely recommend Faculty membership to others because there is not another development opportunity like it. While it is not an insignificant amount of work, the process has made me analyse my own work in a different way. Knowing now how a mastery level of practice is described, it has allowed me to reflect on my practice and identify when I’m operating at that higher level. Also, where I previously would consider what might be useful CPD, I now consider what would be useful evidence for the Faculty as well.”

Anthony Cadogan, Macmillan lead oncology pharmacist for Cwm Taf University Health Board


“I am a big advocate of Faculty membership and have got a lot out of it but it won’t suit everyone. We all need to make personal decisions about our professional development and continuing education. The most important thing, particularly within community practice, is to get acquainted with the frameworks, start thinking about your strengths and weaknesses and how to build a portfolio of evidence. I would rather see ten colleagues talking about and using the Faculty framework, and seeing the value in the process, than just one of them getting Faculty membership in isolation.”

Jonathan Burton, community pharmacist for Right Medicine Pharmacy and RPS Scottish Pharmacy Board member


“When I apply for new roles, the process of getting Faculty membership has given me more confidence in knowing what my peers recognise as good achievements. It is useful to know my strengths and what I need to work on; however the process also helps me to keep up to date with where the profession is heading.”

Jenny Graham, area manager for Boots UK, Northumberland


“The Faculty offers structure for career development from initial qualification right through to senior level roles. Far more than just having experience of covering a broad variety of clinical specialties, the accreditation process aims to ensure you develop a balanced set of skills and become a well rounded individual in order to be the best pharmacist you can be.”

Nina Barnett, consultant pharmacist for care of older people at Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow


Reading this article counts towards your CPD

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Any training, learning or development activities that you undertake for CPD can also be recorded as evidence as part of your RPS Faculty practice-based portfolio when preparing for Faculty membership. To start your RPS Faculty journey today, access the portfolio and tools at www.rpharms.com/Faculty

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Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2016, Vol 296, No 7888;296(7888):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20200767

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