I AM currently working towards a diploma in level 3 pharmacy services, after which I will qualify as a pharmacy technician, whilst also working full-time in a very busy community pharmacy.
I started the course around 18 months ago and have completed around half of the modules which all require on the job training. It is advised that you work through the course with your supervising pharmacist, but it is often very difficult for both me and the pharmacist to find the time during the working day to do this. It can also be challenging to complete the work at home, not only because its quite nice to have a personal life, but also because the pharmacist doesn’t live with me (thankfully) and it’s useful to chat things through when required.
On a busy day in the pharmacy we can dispense around 600 items, so for the sole pharmacist this takes up a lot of time checking and therefore results in less clinical time for which there is an increasing demand due to the changes in roles for pharmacists and the developments in the community pharmacy contract in Scotland.
In my opinion community pharmacies could benefit significantly by having an ACT employed as part of the team, especially in the current, and ever changing profession.
However, in my experience there does not seem to be enough encouragement and very little (if any) incentive for dispensers working within community to further their career to become technicians, and then accredited checking technicians. Compare this with colleagues in hospital pharmacy where there seem to be far more opportunities for everyone in the pharmacy team to progress.
So what does this mean? Well, if eventually (despite the barriers) I do qualify as a pharmacy technician, I feel that there would be more opportunity in a hospital pharmacy and so community would lose an experienced and dedicated worker.
This is where community pharmacists should be stepping up. Firstly, by supporting dispensers properly throughout their training, and secondly by creating desirable roles within community to retain them, as at present pharmacy technicians are mostly hospital-based. Perhaps pharmacy owners need additional funding to make this happen.
Where possible community pharmacy owners must encourage and support trainees and offer a competitive salary in order to retain these valuable team members so they are not lost forever to the NHS.
Rachel Conaghan is a dispenser, and is based in a community pharmacy in Glasgow