I am a registered Pharmacy Technician and I have worked in the NHS for 36 years with 3 years ‘out’ working for a private pharmaceutical company. My career in Pharmacy started at the age of 18 after spending two years at Catering College.
I didn’t fancy my hands smelling of onions forevermore.
I applied for a variety of jobs at my local jobcentre and Pharmacy came up first. My first job as a pharmacy assistant involved washing bottles (yes we used to recycle in the 70’s) and packing orders for Community Clinics. I eventually qualified as a Pharmacy Technician and have since achieved extra relevant qualifications including a Diploma in Pharmaceutical Technology and Quality Assurance.
In my late 30’s facing redeployment, as the manufacturing unit I was working in was facing closure, I took a leap of faith and left the NHS to work for a generic pharmaceutical company. I had a ‘jack of all trades’ role there. This involved a range of things for example product development, regulatory affairs, pharmacovigilance and medicines information.
I enjoyed the challenge of learning (which I always have and still do) but decided that I wanted to keep my options open. As Pharmacy Technician registration was coming, I returned to the NHS to secure my professional registration. Life is always busy in the NHS and I love the challenge. I see tangible results at the end of each day with the intravenous products that we have produced for patients.
I am so lucky to work with a fantastic team of people and I am grateful for their support. We primarily produce sterile intravenous medicines and a few non-sterile products for children. Preparation of chemotherapy is the bulk of our workload but we also prepare intravenous feeds for patients. I work autonomously within a management team alongside our accountable and deputy accountable Pharmacist. My manager is a Pharmacy Technician and oversees us all as assistant director of Pharmacy and production services manager.
As Pharmacy Technicians and Pharmacists I now believe the ‘hierarchy’ ceases to exist. We all have our own role to play and work exceptionally together as a team.
My typical workday starts with a team huddle where we pass on communication relating to the days work or discuss problems from the day before. If I am not needed to help out on the shop floor I start with working on the quality management system. Review of any ‘out of specification results’, or ‘deviations to working practices’ are recorded and reviewed daily.
I am currently working on a project to install two new isolators. Our current isolators have been ‘well used’ and are reaching the end of their life. An equipment replacement programme is important to maintain the continuity of our service. This will involve a ‘shutdown’ in our aseptic suite and the main challenge is ensuring patients still get their treatment. I have liaised and networked creating new working relationships and working partnerships with consultants, registrars and lead nurses to encourage pre-prescribing so we can outsource or change patient’s treatment dates. It is quite complex to ensure patients get their treatment under such circumstances. Any change to working practices starts with raising a ‘change control’ so that all tasks are listed and monitored. We are heavily regulated and part of my role is either writing or approving these procedures. We are audited by an external auditor every year and there are always continuous improvement actions to work on. We also have our own internal audit system where we pick a section of work and review procedure and observe working practices to ensure they are being followed and that we are carrying out best practice. I am involved in ensuring these are kept on schedule.
High points of my day are knowing that patients have received their treatment on time. Low points are if they haven’t received their treatment on time. Having been a patient myself I know how frustrating it is if you have an appointment scheduled but are kept waiting. It is important to remember that there is a patient at the end of our processes. I try to instil this into all staff which includes visits towards when they start working with us.
I believe that the name ‘Pharmacy Technician’ or ‘Pharmacist’ is irrelevant in today’s workforce. The NHS is very regimented in you have to have a certain qualification to have a certain job or grade. In Industry they train staff for the job on the understanding that they have a certain level of education or qualification.
Training is the key. I believe barriers to developing future roles for Pharmacy Technicians are attitudes and behaviours. Personnel in ‘traditional roles’ maybe feeling threated rather than thinking ‘this is an opportunity’ to work differently.
I would not have got where I am today without forward thinking Pharmacists and my own sheer determination. I would like to thank former colleagues who have helped me along the way. I hope they are reading this. We can all help each other and work together and share knowledge to develop Pharmacy practice as a whole in the future.
Ann Mason is a Pharmacy Technician and is the deputy production manager in Production Services within a Hospital Pharmacy.