Roles and contributions
Liz Fidler discusses transferrable skills and whether the pharmacy technician profession’s culture shift over the last 20 years has gone far enough
Every step of my career in community pharmacy was underpinned by education and mentoring. Although not as structured as undertaking a training placement in a hospital, I was supported and, most importantly, encouraged.
The knowledge and skills I gained through establishing strong relationships with patients, underpins my practice today.
I undertook a whole range of courses and qualifications to build my knowledge and skills around, supporting patients with making the most of their medicines. My role was as important to that patient as any other healthcare professional they would have come across.
Having reached a point where I wanted to expand my experience, I applied for roles in local hospitals. Many of these did not recognise my education and wanted me to apply for ‘student’ posts. This was insulting as I had a wealth of experience and although recognising a robust induction and training would be required to top me up in areas such as IVs and technical services, I certainly didn’t need to undertake another two-year training pathway of two qualifications.
I challenged the feedback around becoming a student and what was apparent was that there was a clear lack of understanding of how to utilise my skillset. By nature in pharmacy we are risk adverse and so it’s easier sometimes to request people undertake the routes we are familiar with as we feel assured by them. But is that necessary and a good use of time and money? I don’t think so.
To cut a long story short, I was successfully recruited into a hospital post in 1999 and began to use my skills to move very quickly from the dispensing functions to being ward-based. At every step I needed to gain trust and assurance from pharmacy colleagues who had trained within the hospital sector. I almost felt that I continually had to prove myself and that my education was good enough. I never had that challenge from outside of the profession. As I was part of the multi-disciplinary team, I was accepted for my contribution.
I often wondered about how my hospital pharmacy colleagues would fare in community pharmacy with the diversity of patient health and medicines advice that would continually be coming through the doors and whether they would have been asked to retrain. Of course I wouldn’t wish for that we need to move towards a recognition of our core skills and build on any sector specifics.
Of course, things in the main have moved on considerably: the introduction of regulation and initial education and training standards have supported a culture shift. Does it matter what building we are practising from when we are all there for the patient? No.
However, I feel there is still some way to go in terms of the pharmacy profession truly understanding each other’s roles and contributions. There are many opportunities on the horizon and we as a profession need to embrace them and move forward as the pharmacy family to deliver what patients require from healthcare professionals in the 21st century and beyond!