Where did you do your preregistration training?
I did my training with Boots in the Metrocentre, Gateshead. It was a flagship store and I was proud to be offered a position there. I had the benefit of working with a fantastic healthcare team and some truly inspirational pharmacists. The store was open seven days a week, late at night and tended to attract many tourists in the area — it was such a varied experience and every day was different. As a result I qualified with a great deal of confidence.
How were your early years of practice?
I focused on pursuing the management route at Boots and I progressed relatively quickly. However, in hindsight, I think my ambition to become a manager may have prevented me from building relationships with patients and other healthcare professionals at the start of my career.
At that time there were a lot of young pharmacist managers in the area and we formed a strong network that helped us through difficult times. We would often call each other to share best practice and discuss how to get the most out of our teams in store.
What is your current role and how did you get there?
I am managing director of a small chain of pharmacies in County Durham. I am still a full-time pharmacist and I work at the business every day.
I had transferred to a Boots store in Ireland to progress through the management ranks. Because I was not registered to practise as a pharmacist in Ireland, I worked as store manager and ended up at the branch on Grafton Street in Dublin. Although this was an exciting place to be and I had a great team, I realised as time went on that I missed working as a pharmacist.
This was a “Road to Damascus” moment for me because I had fallen out of love with pharmacy while I was working in the UK.
I returned to the UK and worked as a locum pharmacist. I found this difficult because I did not feel that I had any responsibility for anything. I felt like I was “just a locum”. As a result of this experience, I always try to make sure that the locums I employ feel part of our team.
Becoming a proprietor has been a steep learning curve. Although I had management experience from my time at Boots, this was on a different level altogether and there was no head office to call on. Learning about human resources, finances, accounting, business planning and more has been incredibly rewarding — but I have had a few sleepless nights along the way.
What professional development have you done that is specific to what you do now?
When I took a position providing pharmacist support to our local GP practice I realised I needed to to enhance my clinical knowledge. I was petrified on my first day in the practice, but was made to feel welcome immediately. The support I received from the GPs and the team was fantastic.
I have since developed my understanding of many different clinical areas and this has helped me to become a better pharmacist.
Of which achievement are you most proud?
My team make me proud. They go the extra mile to make a difference. I have clear ideas about what I want my team to offer patients and we are passionate about delivering a great experience. When the pharmacy receives positive feedback it makes me feel like we are doing the right thing.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I was fortunate to be able to purchase my first pharmacy at a time when the banks were supportive of independent business. Since 2008, the financial picture in the UK has changed significantly. My ambition is to provide support for pharmacists wanting to go into business and to be a mentor for those who do.
What is the best piece of advice you have for other pharmacists?
The first piece of advice I have is never to assume. I have often seen the simplest of mistakes being made because of assumptions.
Second, I think that as a profession we are far too happy to work in isolation. I would encourage all pharmacists to strive to build relationships with local GPs, district nurses and — most importantly — their staff.
In a world without pharmacy, what career would you pursue?
I often dream about opening a coffee shop and selling good quality and nutritious food with fantastic coffee. I enjoy serving customers and take pride in the quality of my service.