After six years working as a pharmacist across a variety of sectors — community pharmacy, a private fertility clinic and primary care — I started to wonder ‘where else could I go?’
I have always loved teaching others but I never expected that it could end up becoming a significant part of my career. That was until I saw an advert for the position of senior lecturer for the non-medical prescribing course at Buckinghamshire New University.
For a lot of pharmacists, teaching at university is not an option they would give much thought to; however, after seeing my first cohort pass, I have realised that a role in academia can be just as rewarding and fulfilling as a clinical role.
As pharmacists we rarely see teaching as a major part of our role but it is something that we all do, irrespective of which career path we decide to take. Every day we are teaching and training those around us but we rarely appreciate the positive impact that it has. I have learned that although students may not always remember you as their lecturer, they will remember what you have taught them and knowing that I am helping to shape the future of clinicians of tomorrow is an irreplaceable feeling.
The non-medical prescribing course that I teach at the university helps healthcare professionals, including nurses, paramedics and pharmacists, to become competent and confident prescribers in whatever field they are in.
Our students come from both secondary and primary care, and some come from specialist areas. As a result, the knowledge and skillset is so vast and varied that we all end up learning from each other. This experience is priceless; I frequently come away from a lecture that I have delivered having also learned something valuable myself.
When I started in this position, we were in the middle of a global pandemic. While for many this may not have been the most ideal moment for a career change, for me, any time is a good time for a challenge.
As has been the case for most universities during the pandemic, the way Buckinghamshire New University delivered the lecture material and the examinations changed significantly. During the summer I had to quickly get to grips with how to use the online platform, develop new course materials tailored to online teaching and then learn how to deliver it all virtually to a class of up to 30 students.
Making the jump to having a virtual class of 30 was an intimidating challenge but I was fortunate to have the support of my colleagues at the university; something I am enormously grateful for. They were always available to me, albeit virtually, helping me not only to learn how to engage a large group of students but also to enjoy what I was doing. I have since started teaching my second cohort of students and the buzz and the excitement that I get from delivering my lectures and tutorials is still very much there.
Having only taught online lectures so far, I hope that when we eventually go back on campus to teach it will reinvigorate my enthusiasm further; particularly as I will finally be able to meet all my students and colleagues face to face.
Since starting at the university I have also been studying for a Fellowship in Higher Education. This will help me to learn and develop new skills to improve my delivery of lectures to students and optimise their learning. Seeing the additional four letters after my name will also give me a sense of achieving something different and ‘outside of the box’.
This role has been a complete contrast to the other roles I have had during my career so far, but I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It has pulled me out of my comfort zone and challenged me in different areas, allowing me to incorporate pharmacy and teaching into one and develop in both at the same time.
I am so proud that the profession of pharmacy is forever changing and that there is an increasing number of areas where pharmacists can show their value. The role of pharmacists has been highlighted more than ever during the pandemic and our skills have been further utilised.
I am proud that, with the NHS continuously changing, pharmacists like me are now able to forge a path of their own.
Puja Nathwani is a senior lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University