I have worked in pharmacy for ten years now.
To many of you, that won’t seem like a long time. I was only 17 when I joined and I’m 27 now, so basically all of my adult life I have given to pharmacy.
I started off quite by accident in a supermarket pharmacy. I used to work as a shelf stacker in the health and beauty department. One day I’d had enough and handed my notice in. I was SURE I could find a better job elsewhere, two weeks passed and I could find nothing that interested me. Then I was approached by the pharmacy technician Debbie, was I interested in taking a role in their pharmacy?
Now I had spoken to the pharmacy crew a lot, my health and beauty section was built around it so I knew all of them anyway. What I was shocked about was they had been watching me too, liked what they saw and offered me the job!
I was now a counter assistant in a pharmacy. I was ecstatic! I read all those counter pharmacy magazines and completed my level one counter assisted course in super quick time. I was like a sponge just soaking it all up. And the more I learnt, the more I wanted to know.
Pretty soon I was helping my manager put away the POM medicines and tapping out a few labels for her. I also walked back and forth to the local doctors surgeries collecting prescriptions. After nearly a year, I asked if I could go into the dispensary.
There was so much more that side of the counter that I could learn. Sure, I was still learning at the front. You never can know it all (though some think they do!) But I craved to know more, I was told no. They simply did not have enough work to warrant another dispenser. I was crushed.
Then one evening I was working with my absolute favourite locum who told me there was a dispensary assistant position in a large chain pharmacy that she worked in on Sundays. She had told them about me and I needed to go in and have a chat if I was interested.
The very next day I walked the 8 mile trip to the pharmacy and had my interview there and then. What I hadn’t been told, was they were looking for a qualified dispenser. I asked what system they used, she said link. I told her I was not qualified but I had basic knowledge and could I show her? I had never blagged so much in my life, but I so wanted the position!
I showed her I could print labels out, read dosages and stick a label on a box neatly. A massive pet hate of mine is wonky labels!
She offered me the job! I was ecstatic, even though it meant taking a large pay-cut; it’s what I needed to do to progress further. I was to start in a month.
Saying goodbye to my current pharmacy was hard, without them I never would have got to where I am now and I will always be thankful for them taking a chance on me.
A month into my new job I was halfway through my NVQ2 dispensing assistant course. I had also decided I was going to apply for college so i could go on to university to get a pharmacy degree. I left school with no GCSE results due to leaving school at 15 to get a job.
After completing my NVQ2 my manager signed me up for my level 3NVQ technician course. This one was a lot more difficult and took me a little over two years to complete. I did change stores halfway through my course though due to bullying and was unable to find time to study in my new very busy branch!
It was in this new branch that I decided pharmacy wasn’t for me at all. I adored my job, but the daily stresses I see pharmacists go through every single day. The huge amount of paperwork that has to be filled in and it all seemed to be about figures.
Now I’m not stupid, far from it! I understand that pharmacy is a business, but the amount of pressure put on pharmacy managers is crazy. I was told by half a dozen newly qualified pharmacists to look into becoming an ACT. They pretty much all agreed that that’s what they would have done instead had they have known about it. So that’s what I did.
In September 2009 I qualified as an accredited checking technician. This basically meant I could help take the heat off the pharmacist by checking any repeated medications or anything else as long as they had done a clinical check except controlled/toxic and epilepsy medications.
I love my job, no two days were ever the same. Even more so as ACT roles in my company are so few, I would sometimes work in three or four different branches a week! Good job I’m a sociable easy to talk to type :-)
The hardest thing about my job is definitely working with “old school” locums. I had one want to “test” me before he would “allow” me to do my job. The one that I’m qualified to do. I was outraged! I would never dream of questioning a pharmacists ability’s to do their job. So why is it acceptable for them to question mine?
I do understand that if I did make a mistake then it falls back on the pharmacist in charge at the time, but his whole attitude was awful. I requested to work in another local branch that would appreciate my help and left immediately. That pharmacist never caught up with our huge workload 700+ items normally and apparently was heard saying that girls should not work in pharmacy.
9 times out of 10 I love my job, I am easy to get on with. So if you are a locum about to work in a new pharmacy that has an ACT, please respect that they can do their job and perhaps I will enjoy my job 100% of the time.
Remember, I’m only here to make your job easier!