Bryony studied for a Masters of Pharmacy (MPharm) at Robert Gordon University. She now works a Band 6 rotational pharmacist for the NHS
How did you get your job?
I started applying for pre-registration jobs during my third year at university, as the Scottish system is slightly different to England. I applied for almost every pre-registration place available but had my heart set on a hospital. Unfortunately, I was unlucky through the NHS Education for Scotland (NES) placing system, so I got my pre-registration place through the second round of Pharmalife applications.
As a pre-registration pharmacist I my first year was split between mental health hospitals and large multiple community pharmacy in the North East of England. As an NHS employee, I took part in various NHS organised study days, both regional and sub regional. These study days gave me the opportunity to visit a range of hospitals within the area and meet some of the staff at each. These interactions gave me a vague idea of what each hospital was like, which helped me when I was writing my applications. It also meant that I could make the application more personal and tailor them to each site.
I got the job I am currently in by applying via NHS jobs around January/February time of my pre-registration year.
What's a typical day like as a rotational pharmacist?
Days vary depending on my rotation. I'll spend four months in a specialism such as surgery, trauma, paediatrics or neurology before rotating on to the next one. Each rotation requires me to adapt to the needs of the service and to get used to a new speciality and team.
My morning on the ward starts by looking at my handover, to identify the new patients. From this, I look at patients' past medical history to see who is a high priority. I complete a medicine reconciliation on each new patient to see what medication they came in with and determine if these are still suitable for the patient while in hospital. I discuss any issues or discrepancies with the ward doctors in order to come to a solution.
Aside from this, I usually have the doctors and nurses asking me questions about where medication is, how to give some medications and a range of other medication queries. As a pharmacist the hospital staff will direct any questions that loosely relate to medication toward me. I also clinically check all the discharge prescriptions on the ward before they go down to dispensary and then review the patients who are not new on the ward.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love that every day is different and each day brings a new challenge. My clinical knowledge is constantly being challenged and as a result I would say I learn something new every day.
I like how each rotation has given me a unique experience of pharmacy. They have allowed me to build good relationships with the ward staff and doctors. I like that I am responsible for my own wards, but in a hospital you are never completely on your own. If there is something you're stuck on there are lots of other pharmacists in different specialities who are always willing to help.
What are the challenges?
Sometimes, when you are on a rotational basis the wards come to expect the same from you as the previous person in that rotation. This can be challenging as the way you work can be completely different to another person's.
It can also be challenging trying to balance a busy ward between lots of dispensary sessions when covering the outpatient pharmacy. There are some wards where the turnover is so high that you will never see every patient. In these situations it is about prioritising your workload to ensure that the ward is safe. For example, a patient that has no medication history is less likely to have medication errors than a patient with diabetes, heart failure and dementia.
On-call has been another challenge for me this year, as we are on-call from 5pm to 8:30am the following morning and most pharmacists echo the opinion that half the problem is not knowing when people are going to call.
In what way is your degree relevant?
My degree gave me the foundation of the knowledge that I use every day. I think even more than the clinical knowledge my degree taught me the skills that I use in practice.
I experienced so many workshops at university including communication, ethics, counselling and working through care plans, which developed skills that I still use. I remember having a variety of talks throughout my later years at university, which challenged the way I viewed pharmacy.
How has your role developed?
When I first qualified my role was very basic. I spoke to new patients about their medication, resolved queries and dealt with any discharges or orders on the ward. Almost a year after qualifying my role has become more integrated into the multidisciplinary team. I feel the development of my clinical knowledge allows me to work closer with doctors and resolve some of the wider issues that might not be picked up in community.
Now that I am more settled into my role I think I have started to identify ways to improve the services I am part of, whether that be on the ward or within dispensary.
As for career ambitions, I will be starting my clinical diploma and eventually I would also like to become a pharmacist prescriber allowing me to run my own clinics. As I gain more experience, I would like to have more involvement in the education and training of others and potentially venture into a different sector to get a wider experience in pharmacy, which is such a versatile career.
How do I get into hospital pharmacy?
- Do your research. If there is a particular hospital you want to work in then research it and try to answer questions such as 'why this particular hospital?', 'What makes it appeal to me?' Try and visit the hospital beforehand to get an idea of where you'd be working. Use the knowledge and experience you gain in job interviews.
- If you don't get to the job you want at first, don't give up. There are many different routes to your dream job. I applied to so many pre-registration places and got rejected. I ended up moving across the country for a split pre-registration year, which only gave me a two-week cross over in an acute hospital. Although it wasn't what I wanted initially, I had a great pre-registration year which gave me a different experience from everyone else. A year later I'm working in a hospital where going to work each day doesn't feel like a chore. Don't be disheartened by rejection. Seek feedback and think of things you can improve on for next time. As hard as being rejected is, being able to learn from it will make you a better professional in the long run.
- Get involved with different organisations and attend conferences. Activities such as these have shown me what pharmacy has to offer, allowing me to see where pharmacy fits in on a national level. These events give you the opportunity to network with senior professionals and have motivated me to aim higher in my career. These extra things can also help you stand out in interviews.