Shivani Patel is a newly registered GP pharmacist working with AT Medics. She took some time out to speak to PIP.
Why did you become a pharmacist?
I did some work experience at my local pharmacy during my A-levels and really enjoyed it – I was inspired by the fact that the pharmacist was the first point of call and built a strong connection with patients. This is when I knew I wanted to become a pharmacist and play a vital role in the care of patients.
Where did you work on your first day as a pharmacist and when was that?
My first day was at a busy shopping centre in Woodgreen for a corporate chain in August 2017. I was well supported however still remember when the patient asked to see the pharmacist for advice – I went looking for the pharmacist, I suppose it had not quite sunk in yet as just the day before I was a Pre-reg.
What roles have you undertaken as a pharmacist?
Being a relief pharmacist I have covered various different stores including care home units and store manager positions. I got a good flavour of different roles pharmacists can have in the community. Currently, I work for a company of GP surgeries with an incredibly varied role. I am involved in long-term management clinics, telephone triage, audit and safety work amongst various other projects for practices spread across London.
I felt my time in community was too short so I have a Sunday role in the store I had my very first day at. Both roles have worked to my advantage as I can advise patients on how GP systems work or make recommendations based on my training from primary. Consequently whilst at the GP surgery, my experience in community helps in decision making for management from a primary care perspective. I personally feel not only is it helpful to have a pharmacist with community in general practice but to introduce schemes where the local pharmacist spends time at the surgery in order to understand processes and improve practice in community and the surgery.
Do you work autonomously?
In community it’s a requirement but important to know which resources you can use when facing a challenging situation e.g. the RPS professional support. In GP, it is very similar and I feel for certain areas of practice I am confident to work independently however because I work in a team of pharmacists led by a senior GP I have a lot of support readily available when needed.
How do you ensure you work within your area of competence at this early stage in your career?
With any job in healthcare it is important to understand the limitations of your personal competence and at the GP, for every new project we are trained on scenarios that would warrant a referral however at any point where I am unsure I can always discuss it with the team of pharmacists and GPs that I work alongside so I feel it is a positive working environment with lots of support available.
How do you assess and demonstrate your competence?
The great thing about my role is that I wasn’t thrown into the deep end. I’ve had a stepwise approach whereby I completed some in-house training followed by a face to face workshop, observing more senior pharmacists then was then observed by a senior pharmacist who provided feedback on my performance. A few months in, I also had a workplace assessment as part of my foundation course.
Have you completed the RPS foundation programme?
I have started the programme and have two tutors; one based in community and the other in a GP setting to ensure my portfolio reflects my experience in both sectors.
What was the toughest lesson you had to learn in your first year as a pharmacist?
Initially, after the tough pre-reg year, you get a huge pay rise and don’t have a deadline/exam to sit so I found myself becoming very comfortable. Many pharmacists I feel, remain in this comfort zone due to long hours and catching up with their social life. The lesson learned was to seek learning opportunities to develop my professional competency in a highly competitive profession.
Do you feel ready to become an independent prescriber?
I am ready to start the course for IP because of the fact that I learn something new every day, I have developed a keen interest in Type 2 diabetes so this is an area I would like to specialise in. The GP director I work for has been a DMP for many pharmacists and one of my RPS foundation tutors has recently completed her IP course so I will have a lot of support when I do enrol.
Do you feel nervous about the potential risks associated with working in general practice?
I think there are risks associated with any healthcare field but I work alongside a team of more senior practitioners who can intervene if need be during telephone triage clinics. The key is ruling out red flags warranting same day appointments which we have been trained on and providing advice on minor ailments similar to how we would in a community setting. Safety netting, discussing with another clinician or arranging same day appointments are therefore options available to support decision making so there is an element of risk but there are many ways of ensuring safe practice too.
I think this working model ensures patients requiring urgent attention or of a complex nature are seen by a GP rather than ending up in A&E whereas hayfever and medication queries can be dealt with efficiently by speaking to or seeing a pharmacist.
Do you think GP pharmacists are paid enough?
I think across the sector there is too much inconsistency as to what GP and community pharmacists are paid. There are also many pharmacists who are and are not on the CPPE pathway and thus the role itself is incredibly varied. I think this calls for a defined framework which would also support GP pharmacists to standardise competencies and make pay fairer across the sector.
As a newly qualified pharmacist, what is your view of the leadership direction within our profession?
I think there are many role models in pharmacy today aspiring leadership within the profession. I think in community, most pharmacists will have a leadership role, however, don’t get enough recognition for it. I do think there is a lack of representation in the GP sector however and we could really benefit from role models to connect with. I am lucky to have my foundation tutors who work in both sectors, so to provide me with guidance and direction but I am not sure this applies to every recently qualified pharmacist.
What’s next for you?
Definitely to continue to build upon my knowledge in order to progress in the GP sector and in a years time apply for the IP course. I have recently become an RPS ambassador and am excited to share their resources with other pharmacists so this is an opportunity I am excited about too.