Clinical, Guest blog, Opinion piece, Pharmacist, Self development

My first months as a healthcare professional.


Anum is a newly qualified, hospital pharmacist. In this blog, Anum shares her experiences of moving from a student to a healthcare professional.


So, you pass your pharmacy pre-registration exam and you are absolutely over the moon. Everything you worked so hard for over the past 5 years finally means something. The multiple thoughts of burning your BNF and moving to a Caribbean island to work on the beach selling coconuts seems a distant memory. You are a fully fledged pharmacist and you feel on top of the world! Fast forward to starting your first job, whether you decided to start straight after the exam or wait a few months, reality hits you like a true slap in the face (with a BNF).

If like myself, you decided to enter the world of hospital pharmacy, I am sure you experienced the same overwhelming feeling of being confused and unsure ALL the time! As matter of fact, regardless of what sector of pharmacy you decided to enter, I’m sure the feeling was the same. It suddenly dawns on you that your ability to remember anything you learned over the past five years is pretty shocking. You quickly develop a love-hate relationship with the BNF app; you can’t possibly do your job without it but why does it have to take up an unfathomable amount of space on your phone?!

Wherever you work you feel like you are at this weird, uncertain stage of your career. You have a GPhC number and are qualified so you feel like you are expected to know everything, but in reality, you find yourself having to look up things that you should probably just know, triple checking that box of amlodipine and did you just advise that doctor on how to dose gentamicin correctly?? If this sounds all too familiar, worry not! You are not alone, being a newly qualified pharmacist myself and hearing about my friends and colleagues experiences, this is all apparently normal!

So whether you are a pharmacy student and want an insight into the challenges of qualified life, a newly qualified pharmacist and want some useful hints and tips, or an experienced pharmacist looking for a laugh and a chance to reminisce on the good times when, like me, you also had no clue then please read on! These are my top 5 survival tips to help you survive being a newly qualified pharmacist.
  • Get your copy of the app

I can’t stress enough the importance of asking questions. I know many of you may roll your eyes at the age-old saying of ‘no question is ever a stupid question’ but it is really true! You are responsible for your patient’s safety and therefore have a responsibility to ask any question which will enable you to deliver a safe and reliable service. The beauty of working as a pharmacist is that you are often surrounded by a team of colleagues that bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge so make use of them! People understand that you are inexperienced but you are still a professional and need show a level of initiative and problem-solving. Before asking a question, have a look for the answers yourself, explore different resources (this will often lead you to the answer) but, if you are still unsure do not hesitate to ask somebody that might. At the end of the day, you are not expected to know everything and how else will you learn?!

2)Quality over Quantity 
This is a concept that I really struggled with and to be honest, still do. Getting the balance between seeing all the patients on your ward or getting through that big pile of FP10s waiting for a clinical screen AND checking prescriptions, whilst trying to do it all can be a real struggle. Pharmacy is often a time-pressured job and being able to do things quickly to provide a service is important, however, if this means running the risk of jeopardising patients safety you are not fulfilling your responsibilities. All I can say is that speed will come with time, first focus on doing the task in hand completely and to a high standard. Find ways to prioritise so you are able to make the most of the time that you have. So don’t let time pressures get you down, strive to offer the best service you can and speed will come with experience (so I’m told so fingers crossed!) 

3)Speak Up
You may find yourself in situations that you feel uncomfortable that’s totally fine! As a healthcare professional you have the right to say no to things that you feel may put patients at risk. It’s okay to say you are uncomfortable to self-check or unable to stay behind late for the fourth time that week. By all means, do all that you can to help and assist others but when it gets to a stage that you feel uneasy just step back and re-evaluate the situation. When starting out it is important to set the precedent for the future. Speaking out about situations that make you uncomfortable and stressed in the workplace from the start, instead of just being a yes man is something your future self will thank you for. Just make sure that any concerns that you do have are raised appropriately and professionally following the correct procedures, I mean, you want to be taken seriously after all!

4) Networking 
If there is one thing that I have learnt about pharmacy so far is that it is a small world, everybody knows somebody that knows somebody! So first impressions are everything, being newly qualified is tough, you are trying to get to grips with what it actually means to be working as a pharmacist but, at the same time you are a part of a wider team and want to make a good impression! Take some time to get to know your colleagues, you never know when you might bump into them again. Attend training events and keep a look out for relevant conferences, join social media pages that relate to your line of work; these are all excellent opportunities to network and help open doors for yourself in the future. 

5) Enjoy it!
Between the long line of patients waiting for their prescriptions and the 9 discharges that just popped up on your ward, we can often forget to enjoy pharmacy. Yes, I know I just put the words enjoyment and pharmacy in the same sentence! Just take the time time, once in a while, to appreciate why you started on this journey in the first place. You learn so much on the job and seeing your interventions making a difference to patients is truly the most rewarding thing. You are part of a rapidly evolving, diverse profession so embrace it! Pharmacy, as with many professions comes with its fair share of trials and tribulations, but your career is what YOU make of it, so why not make it an enjoyable one?

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I’d love to know how you found your first few days working as a healthcare professional. Doctors, nurses – did you experience similar things? And to my colleagues in pharmacy, how have you found the transition from pre-reg to a pharmacist?

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