Sharron Gordon is passionate about the role of pharmacists in caring for patients. In over 20 years in NHS practice, she worked in both specialist posts and senior manager roles initiating therapy as a prescribing pharmacist. Her work has been shortlisted for two Health Service Journal awards and won 3 awards from patient charities. She currently spends her time split between improving anticoagulant therapy and running a Winchester based aesthetics clinic. She took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her career and her passion for aesthetics with PIP.
What has your career path been up to this point?
Career paths are always interesting things. Mine has been a real mix of funding my addiction to foreign travel to a focussed career ambition for pharmacists to achieve more. I’ve always been a real enthusiast for the role of the pharmacist in delivering direct patient care. I believe in the key skills they have, many still untapped, in changing the outcome for patients. I guess the roles that I have held are a real reflection on this.
My ‘youth’ was spent in secondary care as a ‘jobbing ward pharmacist’ and eventually into a senior management role. At this point, I was able to build on my passion in anticoagulation. This ultimately took me from a deputy chief pharmacist post to a consultant pharmacist post. However, I had always wanted to run my own company and an opportunity arose to work directly with our local Academic Health Science Network as a contractor. It was just too wonderful to turn it down and I set up my own company in July 2016. Couture Aesthetics Winchester has grown from there as I have had the time and opportunity to think about what I enjoy and what my skills are and learn from some amazing practitioners as I continue to spread the word about better anticoagulation.
Growing a network can be challenging both as an aesthetics practitioner and as a pharmacist. It’s very different in the private sector. In your locality, you can be seen as competition. Individuals have spent a long time and paid handsomely for their training so you may have to go some distance to develop a network of support (outside Facebook groups and training academy’s). As a consequence, it can also be lonely. Imagine when something goes wrong. How do you hold your nerve when it’s just you? You will need a good network of support following this path and I am happy to help anyone who needs a little guidance or advice.
Have there been any highlights?
There is nothing better than providing a treatment to someone who has a real dislike of some aspect of their face, treating them and watching their face as you hand them the mirror. I’ve been kissed, hugged and thanked beyond measure and even given a tip. It is the act seeing their faces and knowing they have had the best options presented to them in a safe environment and been treated in safe hands that makes me smile.
What drew you to aesthetics as a speciality?
I had always had a real interest in beauty. I’m also hugely creative. When I set up my company my desire was to create a life which had more flexibility to accommodate my family commitments. I excel at communication (read extrovert) with patients and managing process. I didn’t realise that aesthetics was an option until I saw a post on Facebook from a friend showing her training certificate. I was blessed that she gave me some time to talk it through. She remains a key part of my support network. Pharmacists’ skill in managing safe process and governance is an absolute key talent which they bring to the multidisciplinary field.
Is there money in it?
I think the question here should be “Do you love this speciality, then, do you have the skills that it takes”? This is the path less travelled (by pharmacists), it is different to any other role you will have held. The training to advanced competency will cost you perhaps up to £10k (including level 7 certification), that is before anything else and many will do this piecemeal as they do other roles to fund this. You will need to rapidly get used to having nobody at elbow length to ask a question easily. Yes, email text etc. exist but that is very different from having someone in the next office. The emotional rewards from patients are huge and eventually, once I pay off the training costs then there will be money in it but I’ve not got there yet.
Do you know approximately how many pharmacists practice in this area?
There are almost 200 in the Cosmetic Pharmacists Association Group.
How do you think other stakeholders regard this speciality?
Prescribing pharmacists in aesthetics is an accepted role within key governing bodies; the MHRA, GPhC, SaveFace (Voluntary register), JCCP (Voluntary register). However, there are many healthcare professionals who do not believe that pharmacists have a role to play in aesthetics. Perhaps the background to this is the protection of their marketplace. However, it reminds me of the huge effort that clinical pharmacists made 20 plus years ago to prove their worth in acute care. The arguments are different of course but the lack of understanding is just the same. It’s hugely frustrating as this negativity results in some key pharmaceutical companies refusing to train pharmacists in aesthetics. It means that pharmacists pay much more for their aesthetics training than other healthcare professionals. It’s very poor that companies can sell their products to pharmacists for use but do not provide training.
Are aesthetic services delivered from community pharmacy?
I have met community pharmacist on training courses who have set up these services.
What are the risks in this speciality?
Provision of invasive procedures carries risks, as do the risks associated with administering any medicine, correctly or incorrectly. Plus, there are the emotional risks of failing to manage patient expectations well and dealing with complaints.
Is it easy to get insurance?
Some key insurance companies do not insure pharmacists. However, there are companies out there that do, at no additional cost to other HCPs.
Do you need to be an independent prescribing pharmacist (IP)?
It is a very difficult speciality to work in if you are not an IP. IP changes your horizon totally when it comes to consultation skills, describing risk/benefit and safeguarding patient care when issuing a prescription.
What support do you feel is needed to help this emerging are for pharmacists to blossom?
We need key groups like The Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the MHRA to continue to fight the corner for pharmacists within this emerging speciality so they are included with all the other healthcare professionals in training and embraced by all support groups so that the network is more robust and learning is facilitated and patient care remains paramount.