Why I became a Pharmacy Technician
Why I became a Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy Technician Day on the 18th October recognises the invaluable contributions made by pharmacy technicians to patient health, safety and as an integral part of the healthcare team. Our valued NCH&C staff share below why they became a Pharmacy Technician:
Abbie Alden – Pharmacy Technician
After I finished college, I knew that I didn’t want to go to university and that an apprenticeship would be the best way forward for me. I enjoyed science in school, so when I saw an apprenticeship for a pharmacy assistant come up, I knew that I had to apply.
I had never worked in a healthcare setting before, but it was exciting knowing that I was going to be doing something completely different. Both my dad and step mum had worked for the NHS for years, so it felt quite natural to follow suit.
The apprenticeship was based at Hellesdon Hospital, a mental health trust, so I knew there would be challenges to overcome having seen people in my life experience mental health problems. My day-to-day role would include dispensing inpatient and discharge medication, as well as looking at the storage of medication, making sure stock was in date.
Whilst I was completing my NVQ level 2 & 3 training, I realised how much knowledge I was gaining from learning about different medications, and that I found it so interesting. I started choosing a different health issue each week, e.g, blood pressure, and I would complete mind maps on which medications would help with that issue, this has really helped me more now that I am a Pharmacy Technician working as part of the Medicine Optimisation Team at NCH& C.
As part of my job role, I am required to give information about medication to patients and If I can’t answer a question, I know that I can always refer to the pharmacist for help. My favourite part of my job as a Pharmacy Technician is talking to the patients, and I love when they feel comfortable enough to ask me questions, the communication between myself and the patients always makes me feel appreciated and that I’m doing my job well.
There is always something new to learn doing my Job as a Pharmacy Technician, from learning about medications, to new policies and procedures. I still love my job as a Pharmacy Technician ,8 years in.
Gemma Baxter – Pharmacy Technician
I started working in pharmacy 16 years ago when my children were young and while I was studying for a Health and Social Care Degree with the Open University . I initially started in a community pharmacy as I wanted to work in health care; helping people improve their health and it fitted in well with my children . I helped put medication stock away, started learning how to dispense prescreptions and served customers who were collecting their prescriptions. I really enjoyed working with people and was interested in finding out more about medicines. I completed the Medicine Counter Assistants course so I had more knowledge to advise customers about products they could purchase and also the dispensing assistants course so I could dispense patient’s prescriptions competently. After a few years I was keen to expand my knowledge further and continue learning while working and went on to study for my NVQ and become a registered Pharmacy Technician. This allowed me to learn about how medications worked and what they were used for . I then applied this knowledge to my practice , counselling and advising patient’s about their medications referring to the pharmacist when required.
After 8 years in community pharmacy I made the decision to move to an acute hospital setting as I wanted to gain an understanding of how pharmacy worked in hospitals and the different range medications prescribed. Initially I worked in the pharmacy department dispensing inpatient, outpatient and TTOs and adapting to the new procedures and variety of medications prescribed . I passed my accuracy checking course with the UEA so I could do the final accuracy check of prescriptions. I then started to visit the wards to check patient’s own medications and order further supplies, to do ward stock top- ups, medicine reconciliations, help process TTOs and counsel patient’s about their medications.
I really enjoy my role as a pharmacy technician as it is so varied, over the years I have worked in community pharmacies, prisons , psychiatric hospitals and acute hospitals. An attention to detail is required, communicating with patients and all members of the multi-disciplinary team , helping patient’s with medication adherence and fundamentally making medications safer for patients. There is always something new to learn too which keeps the role interesting and I’m sure this will in continue in my new role with NCH&C.
Megan Champion – Pre-registration Trainee Pharmacy Technician
I previously worked in healthcare for about 7 years, working in different roles and gaining different experience. I always enjoyed working in healthcare but struggled to find a job that I could progress in and continue as a career. When working in my last care job I decided that I wanted to work in the NHS and try and get myself a job that could progress into a career for my future.
I frequently looked on the NHS jobs website for opportunities so when I saw this pharmacy technician apprenticeship, I felt positive and optimistic about it. I didn’t have any experience in pharmacy itself, however I did have many years of experience in different care settings administering medication to service users/patients, seeing the benefits and effects of medication and also participating in medication training that was part of my role. I always found medicine interesting so I thought I would take the plunge and apply.
The reason I chose an apprenticeship and not a more university route, was because I completed a NVQ at my previous job which included working and learning and just felt it was the most beneficial way for me and my learning needs, I enjoyed completing it and felt confident doing it. I also felt a bit stuck as I needed to work to be able to cover me financially but really wanted to learn and begin something new. So doing an apprenticeship especially within the NHS was such an amazing opportunity for me and I felt like from the start I really appreciated how lucky I was to be able to get the job and be on the course.
Since doing the apprenticeship I feel like it was the best decision I ever made, I feel like I have a good career ahead of me that I really appreciate, I have enjoyed learning so many new things and I think because of me valuing this so much I have really put my 100% into it. I feel like I am excited for my career and excited to continue to learn throughout my career and I am proud to have a pharmacy technician role.
I think an apprenticeship has been the best type of learning I have ever done; I have been able to put things I learn into practice which has helped me solidify that knowledge and gain experience at the same time. I have managed to explore different roles, meet different people with so much different experience which has been amazing for my development. I feel like in the two years I have learnt so much but not just from the study side of things, I feel like it helps you gain confidence, experience and more respect for the role and others roles too, you learn so much about yourself and what you are capable of, you develop people skills, I feel I can work by myself and in a group setting equally as confident.
Overall, for me, an apprenticeship has been the best way for me to learn and develop alongside the study aspect, I feel like a mixture of placements, independent learning and study is the perfect learning style for me and has helped me get through the course with confidence and I am glad I took the opportunity.
Denyse Porter – Lead Pharmacy Technician (ePMA)
I began my career in Pharmacy in 1976 as a dispenser for an Independent Pharmacy – I wanted to work at Boots in the laboratories originally but at the tender age of 17 I was informed I was too old to join their training programme-, so that decision decided my career path.
In 1977 to get a qualification as a Pharmacy Technician it was a day release at a local college for 2 years to gain a City & Guild Qualification, however the pharmacy I worked for wouldn’t pay for the course, so I paid for the first year myself and attended the course on my day off. In 1978 I was successful in gaining employment as a student at the Nottingham General Hospital and began my career in the NHS. I was still required to pay for part of the course with no guarantee of a job at the end of it, but at least I got a day to attend and in 1979 I passed the course with Merit and qualified as a Pharmacy Technician. I was offered a job on qualifying at the Nottingham General Hospital and worked in the Pharmacy Manufacturing unit – there very few commercial products in those days- and learned how to manufacture creams, potions, and lotions. In 1981 I was promoted and became at that time the youngest Senior Technician in the Trent Region working at the Newly opened Nottingham Queens Medical Centre.
During my employ in the NHS, I have had experience in all aspects of pharmacy through my various roles both as a manager and as a member of various pharmacy and multidisciplinary teams. I have been involved in many firsts too.
Medicines Management-I have been involved in Medicines Management for several years in various formats and was involved in an original pilot in 1995 which was published by senior pharmacists from the Queens Medical Centre Nottingham* in self-administration and re use of patients own medicines. The result of this project led to one of the first ward discharge services in the UK and I was part of the team that helped develop the first Medical Admissions Unit at the QMC*.
Medicines Safety -My experience and interest in safe and security of Medicines began in 2008 when the NHS in England was required to audit Medicines Safety. I was tasked to write and conduct an audit based on Duthie requirements and produce a report that I was required to present at an acute hospital in the Southwest to the hospital executive board. Things haven’t changed much over the years, and I am still writing and conducting and presenting audits, revising the questions as standards have changed due to various incidents
Medicines Waste Management -In 2010 the Environment Agency issued guidelines on bulk waste that was produced by the Health Service. At the time I was working for a Community Health Trust in the Southwest and tasked with producing guidelines for our Inpatient Units and Community Teams for disposal of Pharmaceutical Waste. This was extremely challenging as a lot of technical jargon and data had to be interpreted. Again, I had to present my guidelines to the Executive Board for approval. I have since discovered that my guidelines have been used by several other Trusts which I suppose is a bit of a compliment.
Training and Education -I have been involved in training and Education for all my career and feel it is vital to share learning and to support colleagues throughout their career. I currently act as Educational Supervisor for our apprentice technician.
Unusual Projects I have been involved in -I have been involved in unusual projects not always ones identified with pharmacy, one of those being when I worked at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth as the Pharmacy Purchasing Manager. I was responsible for purchasing and invoicing for the British Antarctic Project – who knew that Condoms were used for protecting sensitive scientific equipment.
The Hospital was also one of the main Centre’s for Travel Vaccination for Students in the Southwest and I was responsible for purchase supply and invoicing.
Derriford Hospital was also one of the first hospitals to have a triple Pharmacy Robot of which I was on the project board. The Hospital was also one of the Strategic Health Authority pilot sites for the Pyxis ward based dispensing project- a fore runner to ePMA which I was required to lead.
In conclusion Why did I decide to become a Pharmacy Technician?
It was never a conscious decision, but I am very much a believer that the path is set out for you and things happen for a reason, so maybe my path was to follow that of a Pharmacy Technician and to fly the flag on this day at NCH&C