A thank you to community pharmacy and those who have inspired us to join the profession
As I attended a Health Education England session on ‘promoting pharmacy as a career of choice’ at this year’s conference Clinical Pharmacy Congressan audience member reflected on his reason for joining the profession.
Community pharmacy work experience at age 14 was a big factor in her decision to become a pharmacist, she said, and judging by the reaction I got to my next tweetthis has been the case for so many pharmacy professionals today.
Here, four pharmacists share their fond memories of their early days in community pharmacy and thank those who inspired them early on.
“I realized how important community pharmacy is to the people it serves”
Clare Howard, Clinical Lead for Drug Optimization at the Wessex Academic Health Science Network (AHSN)
“I want to thank Pharmacy England in Wigan for opening the door to the world of pharmacy for me. I started there in 1988 as a Saturday girl. I had been a waitress (a job I hated) so it was nice to start working in a busy, friendly, family-run community pharmacy in Gidlow, Wigan. I’m so grateful to Mr. England for letting the clumsy, clueless girl I was let loose on Gidlow’s clients and patients.
“All human life was there. I learned so much in this job. First, I have never laughed so much. The “girls” who worked in the shop and the dispensary were all so nice to me and the jokes were priceless. But I also saw real difficulties: people with serious addiction problems; seniors struggling with their mobility; as well as the usual bread and butter of community pharmacies from pregnancy tests, childhood illnesses, long-term conditions and people seeking advice and reassurance from a professional on their main street.
“These formative years have shaped my career. You can’t work in a pharmacy like the one in England without seeing how important community pharmacy is to the people it serves. I saw the GPs and the nurses from the practice across the street as part of the team I was on – we need to keep that model of care close to home.
“I never imagined then that this part-time job would open up a career that has brought me so much. I’ve worked in all kinds of positions in pharmacy, but I’ve never forgotten what I learned at the start. Thank you Mr and Mrs England, I am eternally indebted to you.
“I spent years as a Saturday girl and watched pre-registrations come and go. I was inspired”
Neelm Saini, chief pharmacist at Cookham Pharmacy in Berkshire
“I started my community pharmacy career at the age of 16, working ‘cash’n’wrap’ at Boots in Redhill for four hours every Saturday. This continued as I completed my GCSEs, A-Levels and Diploma, and moved from working at the checkout to other store duties, but most importantly to me I was trained to work behind the pharmacy counter.
“The branch manager at the time was Mr Burridge and he was a fine example of a gentleman and a pharmacist. Nothing phased him and I only remember his smile, always being present in the workshop – the true face of the pharmacy. Margaret and Jenny were two other pharmacists who worked at the branch. Jenny (bless her) had a hard time getting me to the clinic on a day when it was understaffed.
“When I first started out, I remember placing an order for 100 plastipak syringes – except I didn’t appreciate that they came in 100s and so the next morning I was greeted by a wall of 100 boxes . Let’s just say I wasn’t popular that day! Pre-registrations came and went and I was inspired. Sarah was the one I will always remember. Her last day was a very hectic Saturday… I don’t think what she experienced that day is even listed in the official skills! But she succeeded.
“Denise Ede took me through my pre-registration at Boots in Horley. She was fantastic! I had THE best year of pre-registration with a brilliant tutor. Her advice on day one has always stuck with me: ‘Get started the day with a clear and organized bench. “
“I loved the richness of humanity and the access this community pharmacy provided”
Ade Williams, Chief Prescribing Pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy in South Bristol and Director and Superintendent Pharmacist of MJ Williams Pharmacy Group
“Traherne Pharmacy in Hove was opposite us when I arrived to live in Hove with my aunt. I walked past it every day on my way to college and my aunt, a nurse, advised me to talk to the pharmacist about her career.
“He completely sold it to me. It was the wealth of humanity and the access I loved. A local NHS stronghold, always with a friendly, welcoming vibe.
Traherne was the first UK pharmacy I visited. My aunt, a nurse and I lived across the road. She arranged for me to talk about the profession with the pharmacist, saying “you too can help the community”. It broke my heart thanking them today for the years of taking such good care of her. pic.twitter.com/CjStwBlYEi
— Ade Williams (@adewilliamsnhs) December 6, 2021
“An interaction I had during my first qualification made me realize that without patient trust, we pharmacists are powerless”
Bruce Warner, deputy pharmaceutical director of NHS England
“Once I graduated from Sunderland [university], I followed my heart to the northwest where my current wife was also doing her pre-register year – being raised in the home counties it was certainly very different. I pre-registered with Boots in Wigan (what a great place!) then went on the obligatory ‘milk tour’ with Boots all over Merseyside.
“I remember that very soon after graduating, I was working at the St. Helena branch when an elderly man came to the dispensary counter and asked to speak to the pharmacist. The distributor said “definitely” and picked me up. As I was walking out, the patient looked at me and said, “He won’t know anything,” and he just walked away. I was crushed, a newly graduated pharmacist lacking in confidence and trying to establish himself in the workplace and in the profession.
“I thought long and hard about this and in hindsight decided the patient was probably right – a few weeks into qualifying I didn’t know anything. I want to thank this patient for making me realize that there is absolutely no substitute for experience and getting the job done. That sixth sense that only develops over time something goes wrong – there are no shortcuts, no matter how trained you are.
“I have never forgotten the look on that patient’s face or how I felt that morning and I would like to think that I have become a much better pharmacist as a result of this experience. I owe this patient a debt of gratitude for putting me on the right foot and helping me realize that without the patient’s trust, we pharmacists are powerless.
If you would like to pay tribute to community pharmacy or thank someone who has helped you on your career path, post your thanks in the C+D community.