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The RPS Faculty – a cautionary tale

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Ross Ferguson
Ross Ferguson


THIS isn’t about my Faculty ‘journey’ you’ll be pleased to hear (or the 1998 film) – I haven’t been on a vision quest, where every step took me closer to a place of professional enlightenment and wonder.

It is, however, about me writing stuff down and getting a certificate from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). Yes, I am a member of the RPS Faculty, but don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to sign up, because it’s not for everyone, and there’s enough people who will do that.

Anyway, back to me. So, I got my certificate in December last year, along with my professional development plan and my initial reaction was one of disappointment.

I qualified as a pharmacist in July 1994 – my first day was in Moss Chemist in Silverdale Road, Lower Earley in Reading (just so you know where to put the blue plaque). So, it’s fair to say I’ve done a few things over the space of 22 years – I won’t bore you with the details.

However, when I applied for the Faculty, my prime objective was to gain entry through the recognition of prior experience (RPE) route (not so much a focus on the level of membership), so I set about trying to remember what I had achieved over the course of my career to complete my portfolio.

I didn’t attend any meetings about the Faculty, but I did skim read some advice about how to fill my portfolio, and was keen to complete it by the deadline – at that time the RPS was only accepting portfolios for assessment twice a year. You can now submit monthly.

I convinced three people to do my peer assessments (thanks BTW) and submitted my portfolio, along with the the wad of cash (£300). I knew that if I didn’t get entry via RPE, it would be more complicated and I didn’t want that, so I was slightly anxious, as I had no idea about the standards of entries they required.

Here’s the bit I find embarrassing: after 22 years of being a pharmacist, the result of this was that I am only a Stage I Faculty member. While my objective had been reached – gain membership to the Faculty – I had expected to be Level II.

But, after my initial horror and embarrassment, I knew where I had gone wrong: I didn’t fully understand the requirements, I didn’t take the advice on offer, I didn’t attend any meetings, I didn’t fully complete the portfolio – I focussed on bigger achievements and didn’t cover the hundreds of smaller things I had done throughout my career that would have shown the breadth of my experience. In short, I hadn’t fully engaged with the process.

My personal development plan, which I’ve looked at twice, and is now hidden in a pile of paper work, is another physical reminder of what I view as a failure – actually, I don’t think I need to see it again. I am now determined to record much more of my professional development, and take every opportunity to gain new experiences, learn and engage whenever I can.

Is it ego, professional pride, a sense of competition, that has lit the fire under me, or is it the Faculty process? Probably all of them.

Is the Faculty the catalyst? I think so.

Has the Faculty made me a better pharmacist? Yes, I really think it has – not because of some inherent benefit of being a member, but because the portfolio has given me something to chart my professional achievements and growth. I get it now.

Does being a member of the Faculty mean I’m a better pharmacist than those who aren’t members? No way – it has made me a better pharmacist than I was. Any attempt to draw a distinction between members and non-members is invidious and must be avoided.

Over the past 6 months I have ticked quite a few of those empty boxes in my personal development plan and will continue to do that – I’ll probably even look at it again. If membership of the RPS Faculty and filling my portfolio also eventually meets the General Pharmaceutical Council continuing fitness to practice (CFtP) requirements (and it makes complete sense to me that they should be aligned) then it’s another reason that joining the Faculty was the right thing to do.

So, don’t be put off joining the Faculty with all this talk about ‘journeys’ – a word that now grates every time I hear it. But, if you do apply, then it makes sense to use all the RPS resources available to ensure you get the best out of the process.

Ross Ferguson is an ex-contractor, he also has experience as a locum and an employee pharmacist. He is a pharmacy & healthcare writer, member of the RPS Faculty (just Level I though) and has created a children’s medicines app, Kid-Dose

Follow Ross @rosshferguson

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