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Brilliance in Bristol

Manager? Adviser? Caregiver? All of the above? TM talks to Jessica Gapper about how she juggles her many responsibilities as an ACT and store manager.

Jessica’s journey in the pharmacy speaks for itself. From her formidable 11 years of experience to her progression from cleaner and counter assistant to accuracy checking technician (ACT) and manager of the Westbourne Pharmacy in Bristol, Jessica enjoys a respected reputation. And it is no wonder, considering her path in the pharmacy has meant she has experienced multiple different aspects of pharmacy life and its responsibilities.

Taking care of the day-to-day

Starting out straight after college at 18 years old, Jessica says she began working part time cleaning and working as a counter assistant. Now, as store manager, her day-to-day duties look very different. “My main jobs are making sure the staff know what they need to do that day, who’s in and who’s working where. [I also] help the pharmacist by checking and answering queries and provide extra checking cover so other services can be done by the pharmacist on duty that day.”

Jessica also helps with other tasks that come up, like helping patients with how to use their inhaler or answering questions about urinary tract infections and sore throat. “I gather the information the pharmacists needs to be able to make a decision, if [the patient] requires antibiotics.” Every day is different, and Jessica says she embraces having to chip in to multiple different jobs when they come up, also helping with Covid and flu jabs, dosette boxes for all patients, putting stock away, checking in on the dispensers, as well as providing advice on weight management and alcohol intake.

What’s in a name?

Working in an independent pharmacy, Jessica notes how significant it is to make a connection with their community. “I think it’s really important to know patients by name. It makes them feel heard and appreciated, instead of [being] just a number or just someone who comes in to pick up their medications.” She adds that her pharmacy team’s advice for their patients often extend beyond the medical, saying that “no matter how big of a problem it is, or even if they are upset or just a little lonely, we give them the time they need to be able to speak to us about anything, even if it’s not a medical problem”. At any given moment, Jessica is playing multiple roles; ACT, store manager, confidant or member of “a big family [where] we all muck in and get the work done as a team”. One of her favourite roles, however, is working closely with patients to make sure they understand their medication, why they are being given it and how it needs to be taken.

Jessica speaks of a particular patient she has been supporting, saying: “I’ve recently been helping a lady with her mother’s medication and getting her on track with ordering and then making her a dosette box. We had a sit-down and went through everything properly together, so everyone understood how it worked. She brought me a box of chocolates to say thank you, and that just made my day receiving that, knowing that my hard work and helping people is appreciated.”

Another patient with whom Jessica’s attention to detail was largely appreciated, was a lady who came into the pharmacy with a bad cough. Jessica asked further questions and found out the customer was diabetic and had had the cough for a long time. “I wasn’t too happy with how long she had had the cough for and how she was describing the cough, so I decided to go and speak to the GP surgery and made sure she got seen that day. She actually ended up having a chest infection and needed antibiotics and steroids to clear it up.”

“I think it’s really important to know patients by name. It makes them feel heard and appreciated”

Making a point of care

There is one thing that hasn’t changed throughout her time in the pharmacy – amidst pay cuts, the pandemic and many pharmacies closing – people will always appreciate the time and care taken by pharmacy teams to get to the bottom of their health issues. These other changes are not unnoticeable, though, and Jessica says that with so many other pharmacies closing, they are becoming busier. “We are always trying to join in on the new services as soon as they become available. The owner of the shop is getting us into the new PGD training that is going to be coming out soon.” Despite how busy they are and the predicated business of the next few months, Jessica says her team work hard at creating a calm and caring pharmacy atmosphere, “so people feel we are efficient and hardworking”.

When reflecting on her career, Jessica was proud to say that her most memorable moment was completing her technician course and now her ACT course. “To start off as a cleaner and part time counter assistant... it has been amazing, how far I have come.” It is also without a doubt, Jessica said, “my customers and colleagues that keep me going. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else”.

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