Droll discourse and desert island drugs: how our podcast kept us going during the pandemic

Three pharmacists on how their homegrown podcast is bringing the pharmacy profession together in testing times.
the aural apothecary podcast logo of old apothecary bottles

We’re the three apothecaries; experienced pharmacists and lifelong members of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), and at the stage of our careers where we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. For a long time, we’ve talked about starting a light-hearted pharmacy podcast — a sort of pub-based CPD, if you will.

And then the pandemic took the pubs away.

We soon realised just how much we valued the kind of informal learning that takes place when you’re socialising, and that’s why we launched the Aural Apothecary: a podcast all about friendship, conversation and stories about, of course, medicines.

The stories have really resonated with listeners, who have been in touch to share their own desert island drugs, career anthems and favourite books

In each episode, we’re joined by a guest from the world of healthcare, medicines or pharmaceuticals, who shares their powerful stories — sometimes uplifting, sometimes tragic. Where there’s truth, there’s humour. Not only that, we also ask our guests to share their ‘desert island’ drug; the anthem that soundtracks their pharmacy career; and their book recommendation for our Aural Apothecary ‘library’.

A big thanks go to all the guests who have been involved so far. We’ve really enjoyed our conversations, particularly those we’ve recorded on Thursday night, which somehow seem to flow better than those on a Monday (alcohol may be a confounding factor).

It has been great to see those rising download numbers — the podcast does seem to have filled a gap in the market — buoyed by some really supportive comments and banter on Twitter. And the stories have really resonated with listeners, who have been in touch to share their own desert island drugs, career anthems and favourite books, but also to say how much they’ve enjoyed the chat, the CPD and the feeling of connection during a difficult time.

It’s been very satisfying to hear from listeners across Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and the US. We never expected anyone to say “I’ve just binged the last six episodes of the Aural Apothecary…”

It has been a real team effort get the podcast out, not only from us, but also from our generous team of friends who have helped with editing, music, graphics and voiceovers. We relied on them to act as our editorial board. We knew something was up when they started saying how much they enjoyed it and how professional it was sounding — these are people who should know better. We joked in episode one that we use our backgrounds in quality improvement to learn as we go, and we’re getting better and better with each episode.

Having said that, the process hasn’t been without its ‘near misses’. We came close to publishing the test episode by mistake and, ten minutes before the recording of another episode, we noticed that the article we had selected for our ‘topical’ discussion was actually more than ten years old — human error!

That’s not to say we haven’t put the graft in: the podcast has been a big commitment in terms of time and effort, all on top of our day jobs. But like the old adage, when you’re having fun and enjoying what you do, it doesn’t feel like working. The 11 episodes in our first series were over in a flash. And we’ve learned so much along the way; new technical skills, communications skills, and not to mention the brilliant opportunity for CPD while preparing the therapeutics and medicines content. Recording the show only takes about 45 minutes, but there’s a lot of reading and planning that goes into it; and as we like to say to our guests: “It is not just thrown together…”

We’ve got more great guests joining us for future episodes, and we’d love to run some face-to-face workshops on the topics we’re discussing — an Aural Apothecary conference? Or perhaps even a spot at the Hay Festival? Who knows?

Importantly, we’d love to know what our listeners and RPS members think, and what they want to hear — get in touch with your feedback @auralapothecary

Jamie Hayes, director, Welsh Medicines Resource Centre; honorary senior lecturer, School of Medicine, Cardiff University; honorary senior lecturer, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, Cardiff University

Steve Williams, senior clinical pharmacist, Poole Bay & Bournemouth Primary Care Network; honorary clinical lecturer, Pharmacy School, University of Manchester; founder and director, One Less Pill Medicines Optimisation Consultancy

Paul Gimson, improvement advisor and programme lead, Medicines Safety & Primary Care, Improvement Cymru, Public Health Wales

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Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2021, Vol 306, No 7950;306(7950)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.89359

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