Showcasing life as a community pharmacist

Teacher-practitioner Elizabeth Scahill divides her time between lecturing university students and training pharmacy staff.

Elizabeth Scahill, teacher-practitioner at Medway School of Pharmacy

What does your role involve?

I have been a teacher-practitioner at Medway School of Pharmacy [in Kent, England] for four years. I spend two days each week at university as part of the practice team, teaching across all year groups on topics such as dispensing, consultation skills, law and ethics, and services. The three days I spend at Boots involve practising in stores, designing and writing training materials, and delivering training to preregistration trainees, pharmacists and technicians.

Why did you decide to start teaching?

Becoming a preregistration tutor sparked my initial interest in teaching. I tutored my first trainee in 1997–1998 and enjoyed the year. Having a trainee presented me with new challenges, and made me reflect on my own abilities as a pharmacist. I found it immensely rewarding and was delighted to continue being a tutor for several years. Alongside this, I tutored a number of healthcare advisers, dispensers and technicians in store, and became involved in delivering training to care home staff and nurse prescribers. I realised that teaching was something I wanted to pursue in a more formal way, and the teacher-practitioner role gave me that opportunity.

What is the most challenging part of being a teacher-practitioner?

A big challenge for me was learning the university part of the role because my own student days were a long time ago. The curriculum and teaching methods have changed a great deal since then, so I had a lot to learn. Teaching can involve lecturing to 100 or more students, leading small group workshops with case studies or problem-solving activities, or running lab-based practical sessions. When I started I only had experience of working with small groups or on a one-to-one basis, so giving my first lecture was daunting. Teaching also means assessing students and providing feedback by marking coursework and exams, which was also new to me. 

I think the most challenging element is working as part of two completely different organisations and being able to meet the varying demands from each party. My time management skills and ability to prioritise are certainly utilised.

What do you value most about your work?

I love the variety — no two days are the same. The best part of both roles is seeing people grow and develop, knowing that I have been involved in helping them to reach their full potential. For example, much of my time is spent looking after a group of preregistration trainees by running study days and supporting them and their tutors in store.

It helps the students to put the theory into context if I can use real, recent examples of patient consultations and scenarios in my teaching

For the first time since I started this role, I now have trainees in my group who I have known since they embarked on their MPharm degree at Medway. It has been great to see their progress as undergraduates and to be able to continue that relationship with them as they embark on the next stage of their career.

At university, the most enjoyable part is being able to use my experience as a practising pharmacist to inform my teaching. It helps the students to put the theory into context if I can use real, recent examples of patient consultations and scenarios in my teaching.

I am proud of being able to showcase the reality of life as a community pharmacist, and help students understand all that it has to offer. I hope that I am perceived as a positive role model for the profession.

What advice would you give to someone seeking a similar role?

As a first step, consider becoming a preregistration tutor. This will give you experience in coaching and mentoring on a one-to-one basis. Working towards a clinical diploma will also help to consolidate and add depth to your own skills and to think about the ways in which people learn.

Consider the skills you already have. For example, you may already be involved in managing support staff and delivering their training. Additionally, if you sit on a committee or attend meetings, offer to be the chair and facilitate, or maybe give a presentation. Although facilitating and teaching are not the same, there is some overlap in skills.

If you have a school of pharmacy near you, ask if they have any opportunities available, such as supporting practical dispensing classes. The General Pharmaceutical Council encourages schools to use practising pharmacists where possible to help students put their learning into context.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 13 September 2014, Vol 293, No 7827;293(7827):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066315

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