LAST week I visited several NHS trusts at the request of the chief pharmacists to talk to staff about the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Faculty. During these visits I was reminded of exactly why I left my NHS career to join the RPS as head of Faculty.
Cast your minds back to the morning in February 2013 that the Frances Report was published. I was interviewing for band 7 rotational pharmacists at University College London Hospitals that day and we had 13 candidates wanting to join us.
One of my questions was “What do you think of the Frances Report and how will it affect your practice?”
The rest of the panel were uncomfortable with this question, they considered it a bit harsh (but they were not surprised, as it was totally in keeping with my ‘bad cop’ interview approach). I argued that my mum was chatting to me about it on the bus into work that morning, as it had been featured on BBC Breakfast: if a 69 year-old retired English teacher from the Rhondda Valleys could hold a conversation about it, I would most certainly expect someone who’d been working in the NHS for the last 3-4 years to be able to.
So we asked. And there were a few wobbly lower lips and the candidates looked at me like I’d slipped into Cymraeg…
One candidate said “I have read it…” And we waited with baited breath. “…but I don’t think pharmacy was mentioned. No, I don’t think it applies to us”.
This was the moment that I knew I had to try and do more. It was shocking to me how professionally naïve these pharmacists were.
Did they not consider themselves healthcare professionals?
Did they not think about the service they deliver as accountable, responsible patient care?
Did they not consider, as I do, that to practice as a healthcare practitioner is very much a privilege with other HCPs and patients alike put their faith in the advice and expertise we offer?
Do we have a “not my job” culture emerging in pharmacy?
And if so why?
And what can I do to change this?
It was not how I’d been trained and it got me thinking about that training. A training where I had role models, was observed in practice and given constant feedback on how to improve. It trained me to constantly request feedback and understand that however experienced you are there is ALWAYS something you can do better – this is a POSITIVE thing, and can be the only way to deliver the best care for patients. True continuing professional development.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom, we had two posts available and the two successful applicants (who I still maintain a professional mentor relationship with) both echoed my feelings. One said…
“It’s about treating patients as you would like your parents to be treated if they were in hospital. Being able to communicate effectively exactly what’s happening, to me, is really important. I always help with that when I can, even if it’s not directly part of my duties. I was upset to read that patients were dehydrated as I always ask patients if they want ta cup of tea or some water if they look a bit dry. Nil by Mouth restrictions permitting of course!”
The other said…
“It’s important to remember how your patients feel. They are extremely vulnerable and worried – this is their first heart attack and/or their first major surgery. We may do 5 a day in theatres, but this is their first time and we need to remember that every time we speak to someone”.
So all is not lost people! Unbelievably brilliant, empathetic, extremely knowledgeable and capable pharmacists are out there and I met some of them on that trip last week. I am proud to be in a position to recognise those pharmacists as part of our Royal College.
As for me; how am I getting on with my portfolio? Well, at the risk of over-sharing:
My dad is unwell and is in and out of hospital; my husband is studying in Cardiff University and looking after my parents, so I commute up and down the M4 to be with them. I manage a team of four people and deliver the faculty service across six work streams. I have met over 4,000 pharmacists over the past 18 months and have coached many through their submission, mostly in both mine and their own time; I’m starting an MBA on September 15th. I have an extremely active social life and am expecting our first Wiwi (half Welsh half Kiwi!) in November.
I am often told people haven’t got time to reflect on their practice and complete their portfolio. I totally understand conflicting priorities, I honestly do. But for me, an active professional life is both satisfying and fulfilling and something I will most definitely encourage my children to seek. An open and public declaration of my knowledge, skills and experience through peer review and feedback from my Royal College I believe is worth juggling my priorities to achieve and I’m going for it by September the 26th. I am looking forward to those Faculty credentials as a welcome Christmas present!
Hannah Wilton is head of Faculty for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Follow Hannah @FDLHannah