Looking back to when she first started working in community pharmacy in 1992, Joanne Wild recalls how there were no mandatory training requirements for support staff. Twenty-three years on and Joanne has not only attained the level of accuracy checking technician (ACT), but she has also gained two university degrees.
When TM first spoke to Joanne back in September 2012, she had just completed her first degree in medicines management at Huddersfield University. She kept on studying and has just received an MA in public health with a distinction from Sheffield Hallam University, thanks to funding from the Numark Actavis Academy Bursary Scheme.
Joanne began her pharmacy career at Peak Pharmacy, a Chesterfield-based company with pharmacies in Chesterfield, Stoke and Sheffield, but pursued a job at Wicker Pharmacy when she heard about its reputation for offering high quality services and providing its staff with plenty of training opportunities.
“I didn’t feel as though I was using my ACT qualification enough at my old job and I also wanted the chance to do more training,” Joanne explains. “I have always been really engaged in education and enjoy doing modules and assignments although I’m not that keen on exams!”
Joanne believes pharmacy should look at health from more of a social science perspective
A healthy living pharmacy (HLP) with a General Pharmaceutical Council ‘excellence’ rating, Wicker Pharmacy provides a wide range of services. Before starting her MA, Joanne used to manage the pharmacy’s drug addiction service, which is commissioned by the Sheffield Drug and Alcohol Co-ordination Team (DACT). The service takes place in a separate part of the pharmacy and involves supervised consumption of methadone and buprenorphine, as well as harm minimisation advice and needle exchange.
Seeing how much pharmacy public health services like the drug treatment clinic could benefit individuals inspired Joanne to study for a master’s degree in public health. “The emphasis of the degree was on health inequalities and the wider determinants of health, such as economic, social and cultural factors,” she explains.
“Sometimes in pharmacy we fall short and don’t look at how people’s environments affect their health, such as things like access to transport or green spaces. I feel as though I now have a better understanding of public health in a social context.” Important information For her course dissertation, Joanne chose to look at equality monitoring in community pharmacy services and how effectively ‘protected characteristics’ are recorded.
Pharmacy teams are required to record demographic data about the users of commissioned services, such as gender, age, disability, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. However, Joanne noticed that pharmacy staff rarely, if ever, asked patients to disclose their sexual orientation. She decided to investigate the reasons behind this hesitance and how it could be overcome.
“We think of sexual orientation as a private matter that we shouldn’t ask about, but if we don’t gather this information, we have no idea if certain people are accessing services and whether or not their needs are being met. We also find it difficult to ask about people’s ethnicity. These are sensitive questions, but if you don’t get the data, you don’t know where the public health priorities are,” she says. After earning a distinction for her dissertation, Joanne is now looking to publish her findings with the help of Sheffield Hallam University.
Joanne says her MA would not have been possible without the support of her pharmacy or the bursaries she received from independent pharmacy network, Numark. To help Joanne balance the demands of study with a full-time job, the pharmacy management team kindly adjusted her duties. Over the last three years she has been working as an ACT for the ‘Medicines on Time’ service, which aims to improve medicines adherence. “The course was very intensive, but the bursary has been a massive help. Without the support of Numark and my pharmacy I would not have been able to achieve everything I have achieved. I have been very lucky,” she says. “We are a close-knit team and all work well together; it’s a really lovely place to work.”
To do more we need to make sure that our services reflect the needs of the people we are serving, and at the moment our training does not go into enough depth
With her passion for education still strong, Joanne now has her sights on a professional doctorate in pharmaceutical public health, which she hopes to study for over the next four years. Although the topic of her PhD has not been settled, she is considering looking at how public health services are commissioned in community pharmacies and whether pharmacies are utilised to their full potential.
Joanne hopes that her learning will one day be used to help improve the way pharmacy services are commissioned and delivered throughout the country. “We hear all the time about pharmacy being an untapped resource, but for us to do more we need to make sure that our services reflect the needs of the people we are serving, and at the moment our training does not go into enough depth,” she says.
“I think we need to look at changing our training programmes to help us look at health from more of a social science perspective.”