With a keen interest in health and medicines and previous experience in retail, community pharmacy seemed like an ideal career choice for Lauren Taylor. So when she spotted a job advert in the window of Louth Pharmacy, a branch of the Lincolnshire Co-op, after graduating from college, she wasted no time in applying.
After nine months, the opportunity arose to undertake a pharmacy apprenticeship scheme. It was a big step that would involve a tremendous amount of training and commitment and would propel Lauren to the position of pharmacy technician within just two years. Undaunted, she took the plunge and emerged with two qualifications to her name, along with a distinction, an award and another award nomination.
“The apprenticeship is a really good scheme if you are willing to put the work in,” Lauren enthuses. “Lincolnshire Co-op offers lots of training opportunities and I felt really well supported, especially by my pharmacist manager, Amanda.”
Lauren’s training encompassed two qualifications: a Level 3 Diploma in Pharmacy Service Skills and a Level 3 National BTEC Diploma in Pharmaceutical Science. The BTEC alone comprised 19 modules, which each included several assessments, while the Diploma in Pharmacy Service Skills required her to submit evidence of her pharmacy-based learning to the training provider.
Lauren completed the course in June 2015 – an incredible seven months ahead of schedule. But instead of using the remaining time to have a break from studying, she decided to undertake an additional 11 higher assessments between June and November 2015, resulting in a double distinction grade.
Rather than seeing the higher assessments as extra work, Lauren relished the opportunity to extend her knowledge. As she says, learning new things is what she enjoys most about pharmacy.
“I enjoy all aspects of the job, but what I love most is the fact that pharmacy is ever changing; there is always something new to learn, new medicines and services to learn about and new changes coming in.”
Pharmacist manager Amanda Hissey is extremely proud of Lauren, while her hard work and dedication has also earned recognition throughout Lincolnshire Co-op’s pharmacy section and the wider company. “Lauren can be relied upon to complete any task needed,” enthuses Amanda. “She also has a tremendous thirst for knowledge and uses this information in her day-to-day work.”
Lauren’s area manager Marc Brooks says: “Lauren’s motivation and desire is unbelievable, her ability is exceptional and her maturity is way beyond her years,” while for head of pharmacy and superintendent pharmacist Alastair Farquhar, Lauren “highlights the very best of the apprenticeship programme”.
Unsurprisingly, Lauren was entered into the Lincolnshire Co-op’s annual Apprentice of the Year Award. Up against apprentices from across the company’s range of businesses, she was selected as the winner and presented with her award at an event earlier this year at the Lincolnshire Showground.
“Our branch was also nominated for the Pharmacy of the Year category, and I thought that was the only reason we were there. I had no idea I had also been nominated for Apprentice of the Year!” recalls Lauren. “The store got a Bronze Award, which was wonderful, and then my name was called out, which was a huge surprise, but a really lovely one.”
Now qualified as a pharmacy technician, Lauren spends much of her time in the dispensary where she processes, labels and dispenses prescription medicines, as well as sorting out stock orders and patient queries. However, her day still includes advising customers at the counter, in addition to helping to deliver some of the pharmacy’s services.
“I spend a lot of time speaking with customers, both face-to-face and over the phone regarding medication queries and giving advice. I love the fact that my job is so customer/patient interactive, even though it can sometimes be challenging,” says Lauren.
Louth Pharmacy offers a wide range of services to its local community, including free health checks, free blood pressure and cholesterol checks, stop smoking advice and medicines use reviews. Lauren is qualified to offer blood pressure monitoring, which she really enjoys, and is currently training to provide blood glucose checks too. In addition, she has recently completed training to help deliver the pharmacy’s latest service – the Lincolnshire C-card scheme, which involves the supply of free condoms and sexual health advice to 13-19 year-olds.
Teamwork is essential to the day-to-day running of any community pharmacy. Louth Pharmacy has a team of 15 pharmacists, medicines counter assistants, dispensary assistants and pharmacy technicians, and Lauren feels as though she has slotted in perfectly to this large, welcoming and supportive team.
Lauren has come a long way in the last couple of years, but her pharmacy journey is far from over.
“For the time being, I just want to carry on being a pharmacy technician, but one day, once I’ve got a bit more experience, I’d like become an accuracy checking technician to enable me to carry out the final check on repeat prescriptions,” she says. “And I’m also happy to do any other training available so that I can take part in more services.”
Right now, Lauren has another big event on the horizon: the Retail Week Rising Stars Awards, which recognises exceptional apprentices from across the retail world. Having got through the interview stage, she is looking forward to the event at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London next month. While her colleagues are rooting for her to take home the big prize, Lauren insists she is simply honoured to have been recognised.
“We’re all very proud of her,” says Amanda. “She’s worked so hard and she deserves to be nominated,
and, hopefully, to win!”
I enjoy all aspects of the job, but what I love most is the fact that pharmacy is ever changing