SO this being my first article on pharmacy and the current English pharmacy board (EPB) elections I feel some ground rules should be set out.
I will be writing at least one open letter to the PJ that will far more succinctly outline my goals and reasons for running. These posts are my personal view and are 100% open to change if a good argument is made. I hope you do challenge me as that helps me improve my thoughts further. I also do not even slightly claim to have all the answers but I will endeavour to not put up a negative point without providing some form of a concrete suggestion for how we can improve. I ask that you read an entire paragraph, then think about it for 10 seconds then comment constructively.
I have seen many, many posts and heard verbally far too often from my colleagues, my fellow pre-reg students, my undergraduate peers “why should I be an RPS member, what do I get out of it?”. I feel here we hit upon both an issue of society at large but also a message that has not landed.
More and more people look for the tangible personal gain from any financial investment, which is understandable. I usually will ask in reply when was the last time someone logged in as a member and had a look around at what is available?
Right now the top items when I searched the term “community” is articles on “Community Pharmacy Practice: Preparing for day one” and “Working as a locum in community pharmacy”.
To a newly qualified pharmacist, a pre-registration pharmacist, or even a practising pharmacist who is moving sector or would like a refresher that they are practising safely and legally still, these are fantastic documents to have available as a direct support. Search for ‘DOAC’ and there is a discussion on DOACs and warfarin to help with keeping up to date in the changing world of anticoagulants lead by a consultant pharmacist for cardiovascular disease, how often do you get access to that on a daily basis?
So when I am asked “what do I get other than a monthly PJ issue?” I would suggest that it is not the RPS that is not doing enough it is that pharmacists are waiting to be contacted more directly about every little thing that has been done. Now I will also admit at this point that I do not use the website enough (though I am a hospital residency pharmacist and as such have access to specialists far easier than in the community). Also when there is an RPS campaign like the one recently focused on antibiotics over the world antibiotic awareness week I did not know about it until it was pretty much underway. So I would like to say this matter needs work from both sides with further improvements on the use of e-mail, twitter, etc but also the timing of content release.
However, I would challenge members to engage more with the resources that they have access to and to tell their non-members what benefits they are getting from this. I suggest this not just for the obvious reasons of engagement but for a very 21st-century reason. If you do not regularly google, facebook search, or check for hashtags relating to pharmacy then even the best timed, co-ordinated, hyperlinked and hashtagged post will not appear on your social media platforms due to their algorithms and the RPS can not fight against those.
Now I do understand when in the middle of a community shift, the area manager has just reminded you that you’re tight to the performance targets this week/month, patients are standing waiting, and there is someone who wants “just a quick word with the pharmacist”, then checking a website or social media is not exactly first thing on your to-do list.
So don’t, engage with the materials at a better time, either in a quiet part of the day or if your store is one of those open to close non stop pharmacies (yes I agree this is most these days) then maybe you might have to do ‘homework’. Having not truly stopped doing homework, since the age of whenever school starts homework (6?), I probably have a more accepting yet still begrudging willingness to do this. To stay clinically up to date and also to get all the practical work done in a day I cannot see how pharmacists aren’t doing some form of out of work learning once a month, minimum. Yes, we do pick up the odd bit and piece as we work or when the new BNF comes out, but I challenge you right now to think back to the last time you checked the new BTS asthma guideline for the best choice of drug at which stage, or the guidelines for post-stroke medication?
I ask because when a patient comes into your pharmacy with their prescription you should be able to check that the medications not only don’t interact, and are at a safe dose but also that they are the gold standard for that patient. If not you can either intervene to better improve their care or you know why they might be on a different treatment pathway. This is what it means to be a pharmacist in any sector not just safe drug doses and interactions but the gold standard use of medication and advice for treatment using up to date guidance, which can only be accomplished with continuous research and reading. One way to do this is to use the PJ as a tool to either start or be the learning for that month. Other ways would be to use the RPS networks to contact people who can explain why a treatment pathway has changed. Again as with my first paragraph yes the RPS needs to publicise itself even more but also people need to engage with the profession and healthcare as a whole more.
That last paragraph is a little abrasive I will admit and I know that actually most of the RPS members who I am hoping to get the votes from are already doing many of the things I have talked about because they are engaged, so thank you. I would then like to ask a favour of you when you next talk to colleagues who you know are not members can you challenge them on how they are keeping up to date? Can you challenge them on where they go to get advice? Can you get them to try being a member for a year or even a few months and see what benefits they can get? I ask because the RPS will continue to attend student talks, trade fairs, host the annual conference, use social media to publicise the work. The society is constantly offering a hand to the profession stretching itself to be as out there as possible and as a member of the board, I would always engage with talks, webinars, and pass the message out. However, our impact to those professionals who do not attend any of these events or follow us on social media is limited and actually on the ground conversations would prove a far more successful way of engaging non-members than trying to grab the ever moving megaphone of the social media world.
These are my thoughts on engagement. Yes, I know most of that is actually not saying the RPS needs to do more but that we the members need to do more. That is what I think on the situation but please do comment and I will review all comments before the voting deadline and try to answer as many as possible or group them if there is a trend and answer that.
Harry Cotterill and English pharmacy board candidate 2018