MY journey was similar to most pharmacists. I finished university, passed the pre-registration examination before I went to work for a multi-national company.
I worked in community pharmacy after qualifying in 2012. I spent approximately two years in community pharmacy. I was able to see from early on, that even though I was very grateful for a job, community pharmacy wasn’t for me. In 2014, I became trained in aesthetics and was very fortunate to get a mentor. Finding a mentor was not easy at all. His name was Dr V. Wong. Under his wing, I was able to observe, inject and understand the industry fully before I was able to proceed. My ambition at that stage was to start injecting and begin growing a business of my own. With his guidance, I was able to grow my clinic in and around London and grow a loyal client base. From this, I was fortunate to set up PharmAesthetics UK. This is an Aesthetics Academy for Pharmacists. We use this platform to help the new age of pharmacists to enhance their skill set and be the best version of themselves and their future patients.
Highs and lows
I think everyday is a new day and a new highlight. In business, the one thing I have learnt is nothing ever remains the same from one day to the next. It’s like a roller coaster. You will have your lows and you will have your highs but at the end of that trip, you have an end destination. I have always had a sense of passion for skin and anatomy. In addition, I have a creative personality and improving the health and well being of my patients is important to me. I was focused to try to make a journey into the aesthetics world and in turn, add value to people along the way. This kept me focused and meant I did not let dips in my progress deter me. Moving from a community pharmacy to aesthetics opened many doors for me. It allowed me to grow as a healthcare professional, grow my business acumen and improve my overall job satisfaction.
Growing up I suffered heavily with eczema and asthma. I have tried every steroid cream you can think of! So naturally, I was raised in an environment that consisted of looking after my skin regularly. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from eczema to that level of extremity anymore but it always left an element of fascination for me. At university, I would focus on the skin concept a lot more than any other subject. Using and my creative nature when I saw an opportunity in aesthetics I made sure I took it and got involved.
Money is something generally accepted as a medium of exchange or a measure of value. The better you are at work, the better the measure of value. With anything in life if you are good at something never do it for free! Hence why we go to work. Here we are paid for the value we bring. To cut a long story short yes there is money in aesthetics but should it be your main focus to enter aesthetics? No. With an industry that is growing year on year and more people wanting to look younger or feel better about themselves it is a lucrative industry to be apart of. This much cannot be hidden. However, one of the questions we ask during our interview stages at PharmAesthetics UK is what is your reason to enter the aesthetics industry? Three out of ten times we usually hear ‘money’ as the first answer. These are the students we don’t want to work with. Yes, money makes the world go round but first, you need passion, dedication and a real will-power to succeed in anything. In this case in Aesthetics before you can be thanked for the value you bring and provide. To achieve this you must be a great professional, a great injector and a safe/ethical pharmacist.
Growing numbers of pharmacist aesthetics practitioners
PharmAesthetics UK was launched at the start of 2017. Since then we have increased our mentors, our facilities and staff to accommodate the demand we received for pharmacists wanting to enter the industry. During our advertising stage, we were getting 100+ emails a week. We had to stop advertising as we couldn’t cope with the demand. To get onto PharmAesthetics UK you do need to be 3 years post-qualified, be a prescribing pharmacist, or be aiming to become a prescribing pharmacist and have successfully passed our interview process. From my current knowledge, based on the demand we get and from what I see generally, the rise of pharmacists in the aesthetic industry is on the increase and I’m sure everyone is doing well out of it.
The perception of aesthetic pharmacy
Over the past few years, regulation has become a lot tighter in aesthetics. This is brilliant in my view. The current Health Education England guidelines state Doctors, Dentists, Nurses and Pharmacists can carry out injections. Having tighter regulations has meant the quality of practitioners entering the industry is getting better and in turn, it means better safety for clients that are coming to you to be treated. A great amount of work went into ensuring pharmacists were accepted as part of the bigger picture. Ensuring the quality of pharmacists and any other healthcare professional entering the industry remains high. This ensures the safety of our clients also remains high. As pharmacists, we are all governed by the General Pharmaceutical Society ( GPhC) and all follow a code of conduct. This means we have our clients/patients at the focus point of our care. Therefore ensuring we have continual learning on a regular basis. We have to attend training events, enhance our skills set and become independent prescribers. The end goal is to make sure anyone under our care is cared for safely and effectively. I have experienced some eye rolling from some other healthcare professionals and even though regulations are changing, there are still some doors shut in my way.
What do I say to that? I would say I respect and understand where other healthcare professionals are coming from but at the same time they need to be made aware of our learning background. During our learning as pharmacists, we do spend nearly 5 years of our life to become qualified pharmacists. We spend time learning the anatomy, the chemical processes that occur in our body, how drugs work and affect our body and how we care for our patients. We do, however, lack certain qualities during our learning e.g. injection experience. As long as this is worked on thoroughly, with a great support network around you, there is nothing stopping you to be a safe injector and succeeding in the aesthetics industry. With the regulations changing and more and more pharmacists entering the industry increases pharmacists need to ensure they are trained to the highest order in injectables. They also need to be trained in the management of complications. They NEED to be independent prescribers and must ensure they do not take any short cuts. Those that think that going to a one to two day course automatically means they are an aesthetic practitioner are simply wrong. To really progress in the market, they need to have someone alongside them that has been in the industry long enough to help them grow in a safe environment and grow their injectable skills. They need to respect the power that is given to them in altering a clients physical appearance.
Community pharmacy involvement
Since we started PharmAesthetics UK in early 2017 we have had one cohort finish. Our training academy is roughly 6-9 months, so they finished in February/ March 2018. All of them have gone on to open their own aesthetic clinic in their respective town. Some of the students from our new cohort that started in 2018, have a different vision. Some have their own pharmacy and look to add the specialist service to their running pharmacy. This is a great idea, as you already have a shop front. You have regular patients attending and you technically have the space for it which is easily accessible. As long as the concept is clean, separate and high quality there’s nothing stopping you from doing this. As a matter of fact, I know a few pharmacists are doing this already and doing well.
It is important to be an Independent prescribing pharmacist. This allows you to take control of your clinics and ensure the quality of service you provide is high. In aesthetics, complications can arise and one should be in the position to comfortably deal with this in a timely manner if needed. As mentioned above, people will come to you for your quality of work and your professionalism. This comes with great responsibility so making sure you are a clinically safe injector is key.
I think there is a new age of pharmacists coming into the pharmacy world. On my travels talking at universities and speaking to many pharmacists that I help, I see pharmacists who are hungry, educated and full of enthusiasm. With the current climate in pharmacy, I do think there are two main routes that are attractive which is obviously the aesthetic industry and the other is the GP pharmacy route. I think while you are able to and have no responsibilities as such, take the leap to further enhance your skills. The more responsibilities you get in life, such as children, mortgage and just general life, it can be hard to move from one area of your life to another in a work position. Personally, for me, I lost my passion for the community industry set up, so while I had the opportunity to, I took it with both hands to grow. It wasn’t easy at all, but I think it’s good to enjoy what you do and have better job satisfaction than not. Pharmacists coming into the aesthetic area need to respect the responsibilities given to them, they really need to hone in on their skills and grow. I’ve always believed in life, to succeed in an area, you need a mentor to help and guide you. You need to invest in yourself for one to two years (if possible) to be the best version of yourself.
Pharmacy is growing, make sure you allow yourself to grow and adapt too.
Amar Suchde is a pharmacist independent prescriber with an interest in aesthetics and founder and CEO of PharmAesthetics UK.