After working for organisations such as the National Pharmacy Association and Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee for the past three years, I missed being in a patient-facing role. I was ready for a new challenge and interested in becoming an independent prescriber because I wanted autonomy in diagnosing and treating patients with self-limiting illnesses and long-term conditions.
After reading about the general practice pilot, I was keen to get involved in this new venture. For those who don’t know, the pilot is a three-year initiative to recruit pharmacists into general practice. The work is part of the GP Workforce 10 Point Plan, which aims to help address the workforce challenges facing general practice by introducing pharmacists into the multidisciplinary team and using their knowledge and skills to improve patient care. I jumped at the opportunity when I saw that Bedfordshire were recruiting six clinical pharmacists for surgeries in the area. My blog posts will cover my journey and the frequent questions I get asked about it — from how I got the job to how it feels going back to study while working.
How did I get the job?
I made my application through the NHS jobs website. My interview was with the GP leads for the recruiting surgeries. It was daunting preparing for the interview because I didn’t know what kind of questions to expect. I need not have worried because it just involved a lot of example-based questions to demonstrate I had the skills required for the role. I drew most of my experiences from my time in community because it was most relevant. Soon after accepting the position, I met the other pharmacists in the pilot and it was reassuring to know I wasn’t alone and that I had a good support network.
How were the first few weeks?
The first week consisted of inductions, meetings and various training. My GP leads are encouraging and supportive of my new role. They are keen for me to start shadowing clinics and seeing patients. It’s helpful when you have a good support team and, luckily, my surgeries have a lot of experienced and highly skilled professionals.
There are various clinics that run at the surgery including: minor surgery; asthma; diabetes; hypertension; gynaecology; and obstetrics. I plan to use this developing and evolving role as an opportunity to network, build relationships and shadow colleagues and clinics in primary and secondary care to enhance my learning and development. In the next few weeks I hope to visit the pharmacies to find out about the services they offer and how we could collaborate to improve patient care.
How does it feel going back to university?
I love being a student again. However, the volume of self-directed learning that is required for the non-medical prescribing (NMP) course over the six months feels a little overwhelming. Working and studying is hard work but, as long as I am organised, plan and keep to deadlines, I should be fine — I hope! The hard work will be worth it in the end.
There is a good mix of pharmacists, physiotherapists and nurses on the course; I have met so many interesting people with varied backgrounds and goals. The course also consists of lectures but, more interestingly, it covers practical skills including diagnostics, history taking and clinical assessments. I hope that working in a GP practice will enable me to use these skills on a daily basis. Working in a surgery is an advantage because I will be spending a lot of my time shadowing and taking clinics so I can write up evidence to sign off my competencies fairly quickly.
What other support networks are available?
The Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) provides a training pathway for 18 months for the pharmacists in the pilot; we are appointed a CPPE supervisor and clinical mentor. I met my CPPE supervisor in the first week on the job and she gave me an overview of what was required to complete the pathway.
There are four assessment stages and it seems a lot on top of work and my NMP course because I have to maintain a portfolio of evidence linked to my personal development plan. This includes study days, experiences, and assessments that demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and behaviours required for the nine core themes of the national learning pathway. The portfolio can then be used for a Faculty entry with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
I also have support from the other clinical pharmacists in my area; we have regular team meetings so we can share learning experiences in our practices.
Over the next few weeks I will be attending my CPPE residential so be sure to look out for next blog to find out more and learn about my day-to day tasks as I start my new role.