When Pauline Stevens accepted a part-time job at her local community pharmacy, she never dreamt that she’d still be working there 17 years later or that she would have risen to the level of accuracy checking technician (ACT) with responsibilities including managing the pharmacy’s finances and staffing. Nor could she have guessed that she would come to look upon her colleagues and customers as an extension of her family, and that together they would win a prestigious award for the pharmacy. But that is exactly what happened.
Pauline has proven her capabilities within many pharmacy roles
Pauline was struggling to get back into her previous career in bookkeeping after taking an eleven year break to raise a family when she spotted an advert for a job at Eccleshall Pharmacy in the local paper. The position gave her the flexibility to work around the school run, and involved opportunities to train and develop should she wish to. “It was a complete change,” she says.
“I did my medicines counter assistant training to begin with, which I really enjoyed, so as my children grew up I started increasing my hours and working my way up the qualifications to become an ACT. It’s a really lovely job and I have never looked back.” As a member of a team of just five, Pauline gets stuck into all aspects of running the community pharmacy, from dispensing, stock control and making up medicine dosage system (MDS) packs to handling the finances, managing staff hours and locum cover, and changing the window displays, as well as promoting and delivering services.
Eccleshall Pharmacy, which is a member of Numark, relocated to bigger premises on the High Street about six years ago because the original store simply didn’t have the facilities to enable it to deliver all the services that pharmacist Andrew Morrison wanted to provide. With its spacious dispensary and two consultation rooms, the pharmacy now offers a wide range of services, including stop smoking, medicines use reviews (MURs), the new medicine service (NMS), emergency hormonal contraception (EHC), blood pressure testing, chlamydia screening, flu vaccinations, gluten-free foods, and a methadone dispensing and supervised consumption service, which is managed by Pauline.
“I take in the prescription, record it on a chart, measure out the methadone, check the details with the pharmacist and lock it away so it is ready when the patient comes in,” she explains. “The patients using the service are all very pleasant and respectful. We call them into the consultation room as we would for any other service and try our best to make them feel comfortable. We don’t judge them and if they have any problems we will sit and listen.”
Pauline and her colleagues also regularly sign up patients for MURs or NMS consultations. These services have proven very popular since they were first introduced and patients often come in to request a ‘medicines check’ having heard about the services through word-of-mouth. The pharmacy’s PMR system flags up when a patient hands in a prescription for a new medicine or is due an MUR to ensure that the team never a miss an opportunity to help patients get the most out of their medicines.
With so many services on offer, Pauline can’t get directly involved with all of them. For example, she used to manage the pharmacy’s stop smoking service, but delegated it to another member of staff when she could no longer fit it in around her other duties. While she misses providing the consultations, she insists that, “we are a good team and it makes sense to make full use of the skill mix and give everyone a chance to train further and get involved with different things.”
Being part of a small, close-knit community means that the pharmacy’s customers are comfortable asking the team questions and really trust the advice they receive. Having a second consultation room helps because, Pauline says, a customer can “pop in for a quiet word” in one of the rooms while a service is taking place in the other. “We know all our customers well and we are to here to help them whatever they ask and if we don’t know the answer, we’ll find out,” she says.
“I’ve given people tips about diet and getting more exercise; we give them a nudge in the right direction. They like to come back and tell us how they’ve got on, for example if they’ve lost weight.” Pauline’s job also gives her the opportunity to unleash her creative side by dressing the pharmacy’s windows.
The pharmacy has two windows, one of which promotes its services, while the other advertises products and changes to reflect the seasons. This creative spark helped Eccleshall Pharmacy earn the title of Numark Pharmacy of the Year in 2008. The team created a series of eye-catching, innovative window displays focusing on different Numark product categories.
For example, they went to town designing a seaside theme to showcase a sun care range, complete with sandcastles and deckchairs. “We put a lot of effort in, got the customers involved and worked on it in our spare time; it was brilliant,” enthuses Pauline. “It really brought out our team spirit and helped us discover talents we didn’t know we had.”
With so many roles and responsibilities, and the everchanging nature of community pharmacy, Pauline places a high value on training and regularly records her CPD online. After 17 years, her role is still changing and she wants to be ready to take on any new challenges that may come her way. “I absolutely love my job because of the people I work with. We have helped each other through difficult times and they are like a second family,” she says. “You never know what the future holds and if we introduce more services I’ll be happy to do the training.”
We know all our customers well and we are here to help them whatever they ask