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Why should you run for election to the RPS board?

Johnathan Laird

MY relationship with the (RPS) has been rather patchy over the years. Like many, I cynically questioned the value of the organisation. How naive I was.

Just over two years ago I made a decision to come out of my shell and get involved — it was the best decision of my career so far.

And there lies the most potent point about the RPS or about becoming a national board member that I could make. If you choose not to engage or be involved in the professional body, then your chances of shaping your own future or the future of our profession is almost completely diminished.

For those more interested in your own practice I would say that running for election has many other benefits. For example your professional opinions are questioned and these should be clear as part of the election process, which I believe is a good thing. Learning to articulate your own viewpoint whilst listening carefully to, and appreciating, the views of fellow professionals is a valuable experience.

So, the truth is I was quite unhappy with pharmacy just over two years ago. The traditional route to becoming a pharmacy contractor was much more difficult than in years gone by, and pharmacy practice was developing quicker than the funding streams in community pharmacy, which meant that I felt that I was between a rock and a hard place in terms of developing a fulfilling career.

My journey to the board
My route has perhaps been a little unorthodox. I signed up for Twitter and shortly afterwards downloaded the WordPress app and began writing. Prior to this it may surprise some to learn that I was rather averse to social media. In fact I didn’t even have a mobile phone.

Blogging was not the complete answer but for me, but it was cathartic and helped me settle on my professional ethos. Surprisingly for me people read what I wrote and still do.

I believe that pharmacists should use pharmaceutical care to manage patients using tools like prescribing when appropriate. I also think that pharmacists should be autonomous practitioners and as such should take professional responsibility for the care of patients. If we do this, then the profession will continue to flourish and move to a new stage of development.

It occurred to me however that I cannot effect change on my own. It gives you a good feeling when people engage with what you write and perhaps have a debate. I would urge caution around this feeling — I quickly learned that operating in isolation would only achieve so much.
It was at this moment that I decided to run for the Board. Up against very well-respected candidates, I was very lucky to get on in third place. I still have to pinch myself when I sit down across the table from some of the most respected pharmacists in Scotland.

It really is an honour to have been elected to the Scottish Pharmacy Board. It’s a democratic process, and if you get voted on you have as much right to be there as the board member to your left or to your right. There is a great depth and breadth of experience around the table of the Scottish Pharmacy Board, with board members from across many sectors with various levels of expertise, and the conversations and robust debate reflects that blend.

But while discussions at board meetings in Scotland are robust and at times passionate, throughout there is deep respect for the views of others. Team Scotland, led by Alex MacKinnon, are extremely effective at making decisions and delivering for members.

So one year in and I am enjoying the experience, but have two more years to inspire as many pharmacists as possible to be as good as they can be. If you have any kind of opinion about the direction our profession should take I would encourage you to stand for election to your RPS National Pharmacy Board and have your say. This year I have had opportunities to stretch myself professionally that would never existed had I not been a member of the Scottish Board or indeed a member of the RPS.

Get involved
So, if you don’t get involved, you will never know what you could have achieved. If you are a non-member I encourage you to join, get involved and see what the RPS can do for you and your career. Good luck if you stand. I will be cheering you on from the sidelines.

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