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If you want to go quick, go alone. If you want to go far, join the RPS

Johnathan Laird
Johnathan Laird

THE Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has quickly become my professional home. Two years ago, if I am honest, I was a bit disillusioned with community pharmacy in general. I was not particularly connected to the professional body and absolutely could have enjoyed my role more. I want to take time to reflect and share my professional journey over the last few years and describe exactly why the RPS was a central part of this journey. Hopefully my story will inspire others to join and get involved.

This blog marks the beginning of my personal faculty journey.

I qualified in 2007 and practised in Northern Ireland for a few years before moving to Scotland. I was always of the view that community pharmacy particularly needed to move to a patient-facing role. The opportunity to manage caseloads of patients within the community pharmacy was something I wanted to become involved with from early on, but the reality of working in a string of high volume dispensing businesses put a reality check on this.

Back then, the RPS had not divested its regulatory role, and so the old Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain had a professional support function as well as a role in upholding standards. The two roles could never really be fully achieved by one organisation, so the split that occurred five years ago made perfect sense to me. The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is now responsible for upholding standards in our profession. I moved to Scotland and have been running a community pharmacy in Aberdeenshire for six years now.

The early years of my career, like others, was full of rapid learning, plenty of feedback and many setbacks along the way. I wish I had the opportunity to engage with the RPS Foundation programme back then, because it is now an essential tool for balancing your professional competence in the early years post qualification.

I think, through the foundation programme, the RPS has identified and acted on the fact that pharmacists in community have had inconsistent support post-qualification. Historically, this has contrasted poorly with other professions like medicine, or even  other sectors of the pharmacy profession like hospital.

If I skip forward to two years ago, I was feeling a lack of enthusiasm for my role and the profession. I had weathered the dramas of my early professional years and began to wonder if this was it. Another 40 years in a dispensing factory.

Write time

Of course my cathartic answer, although I did not know it at the time, was to start writing. I started writing about what I knew. For some years I have been interested in the respiratory area and specifically managing asthma in community pharmacy. I soon learned the rules of social media. More lessons and more feedback.

I was lucky to be involved in the I Love My Pharmacist competition last year and this was a real turning point for me. I was exposed to the full force of the RPS public relations machine and it felt like a whirlwind. I had a stream of political and health related stakeholders through my pharmacy to promote the role of pharmacists. I saw first hand that individual members as part of a collective can make a difference. One notable example of this was a visit I had from the MP Miles Briggs. He later cited my work in an election debate.

The RPS is a collective advocate for individual pharmacist members, which is just one of their roles, but in Scotland I observed the RPS team to be extremely effective.

I subsequently went on to stand for election to the Scottish Pharmacy Board. I was grateful to get on to the board and my first board meeting was a wonderfully positive experience. The board consists of a group of quietly passionate pharmacists. The one thing they all have in common is a shared desire to protect the professional standing of pharmacists in Scotland, but also support pockets of innovation and help to scale up good practice.

I did wonder if the board environment would be adversarial, but on the contrary in Scotland the board and the RPS staff have developed a seamless working relationship. The notion of ‘Team Scotland’ was mentioned throughout our discussions.

Home Turriff
Back in my own community I have an established asthma clinic, take part in polypharmacy clinics and feel part of my local multi-disciplinary team. I now enjoy the day-to-day running of the pharmacy, but only because I know that I am progressing towards integrated, seamless working as part of the local team. My simple ambition to manage caseloads of patients within the community pharmacy setting now feels achievable, but only with the support and guidance of the RPS.

There are now an abundance of pharmacy organisations and representative bodies out there at present. However, the RPS in my view is the only one capable of affecting real professional change.

So this is where I find myself today.

Engaging with the RPS and the faculty process is one such way to engage and get involved. This reflective process is the first step to engaging with the RPS faculty process. The faculty process is a new one for me but I intend to share the steps along the way to perhaps encourage others to have a go. Every other experience I have had as a member of the RPS has been positive and professionally rewarding. I fully expect the faculty process to be no different.

If you are a pharmacist and would like to join the RPS click the logo below.

Johnathan Laird is a community pharmacist independent prescriber with a special interest in asthma. He is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scottish Board, and is based in Aberdeen

Follow Johnathan @johnathanlaird

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