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Career spotlight: Medicines information pharmacist Andrew Carruthers

Andrew Carruthers

Where do you work?


I am currently a Medicines Information pharmacist for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. My post is split between Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley. As part of my job I also have a clinical commitment to Care of the Elderly.


How long have you been a pharmacist?


I have been qualified for three years.


Why did you become a pharmacist?


Before pharmacy, I studied Pharmacology at the University of Glasgow. During my final year, I realised that a career in healthcare is what I wanted to pursue. After some time researching, I decided to apply to Pharmacy as it would mean I would still get to use my knowledge of pharmacology daily.


Where did you work on your first day as a pharmacist and when was that?


My first day as a pharmacist was spent working at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie, after having a weekend to recover from my pre-reg year. It was terrifying but I had great support from the team and spent a brilliant six months there.


What does your current role involve?


As a Medicines Information pharmacist, I research, collate, interpret and assess complex information from various sources to provide answers to complex medicines queries from healthcare professionals. This requires systematic searching of specialist sources as well as databases including MEDLINE and EMBASE. I am able to compile this information, which can sometimes be conflicting, into concise summaries that directly impact therapeutic choices and patient care. I organise and deliver medicines information training to students, pre-registration pharmacists and pharmacists.


As part of my role, I provide a clinical pharmacy service to stroke and care of the elderly wards. This involves participating in ward rounds and providing pharmaceutical care to a vulnerable patient group. To perform my job effectively I must keep up-to-date knowledge of pharmacology and therapeutics and I do this by ensuring my continued professional development.


I am a very new member of the Scottish Pharmacy Board with my first meeting in September, RPS Local Coordinator for Glasgow and Clyde and MEP contributor. I also do the odd locum in community.


What previous roles have you undertaken as a pharmacist?


Prior to my current role, I worked as a rotational pharmacist for two years. This involved rotating through various clinical specialities as well as dispensary, aseptic and medicines information. It was a quick two years where I completed by Foundation training and learned a lot.


I was also a Safer Use of Medicines pharmacist within the clinical governance team in NHS GGC. This involved providing advice and support in relation to the safer use of medicines across NHS GGC. I supported and implemented various quality improvement activities in line with local and national priorities including patient self-verification of medication history. This role also included providing education and training to pharmacy and wider healthcare team in relation to the safe and effective use of medicines.


Which role did you find most challenging and why?


I found the Clinical Governance job the most challenging, and rewarding job as it was a completely new role. This meant I got to develop the role, but I had very little experience of being involved in governance before this. This role completely opened my eyes to other areas of pharmacy, and health care, and the variety of roles available to pharmacists. I was able to gain knowledge and skills in Quality Improvement methodology and projects work that I continue to use in my current role.


Do you think all community pharmacist should be independent prescribers?

Yes. I think community pharmacists are ideally placed to be able to provide healthcare interventions, and that may involve the need to prescribe or de-prescribe medicines. There are some excellent pharmacists out in the community providing these services and showing what the profession has to offer!


What do you love about your job?


I love the variety of my job! I get to spend time working on enquires, educating other pharmacists and trainees, as well as maintaining a clinical commitment which helps keep the answers I give relevant. We receive a vast range of enquiries from healthcare professionals from different specialities it can be very satisfying when solving a problem. More often, there isn’t an “answer” to the questions we are asked and it can be equally satisfying to weigh up the information available, recommend a course of treatment, and have a real impact on complex patients (and have very satisfied enquirers).


Any aspects you dislike?


Sometimes I don’t get to hear about the impact my research and recommendations have had and that can be frustrating. It’s always nice to hear what happened to the patient and the impact, if any, your work has had.


Who are the top five mentors in your career?


I have been lucky enough to have some excellent mentors so far in my short career.


Annamarie McGregor – Annamarie’s enthusiasm for the professional rubbed off on me as a student and I have been involved with the RPS since. Her honesty around the profession and support for pharmacists of all stages in their career is inspiring.


Alison Thomson – Alison has supported my interest in research since I was a student. She was a huge help in publishing my first paper and continues to support me.


Laura Kenicer – I was lucky to have a great pre-reg tutor who pushed, and supported me both professionally and personally massively throughout my pre-reg year. She advised me to find my niche within pharmacy and encouraged me to network at a very early stage.


Colette Byrne – Colette is a clinical governance and pharmacy guru. I was lucky enough to spend a year working in her team and learned so much about project work and quality improvement. Colette’s passion for patient safety and improvement rubbed off on me and we have worked together on a few projects since. She is always highlighting excellent career opportunities.


What is your view on the state of community pharmacy in Scotland?


I think community pharmacy, like all sectors of pharmacy, is in a state of change in Scotland. We need to embrace this change and move the profession on, but we need to ensure we are not selling ourselves short. Unfortunately, this normally comes down to remuneration and pharmacists need to be supported to be able to provide these new services and get out of the dispensary. In hospital, the pharmacists are mostly visitors to the dispensary as it is run by excellent technical staff who, as they are a profession in their own right, and more than capable of doing so. This approach might benefit pharmacists in the community, although I appreciate it would be a huge culture change.


How does community pharmacy need to change to survive in Scotland?


(See above) I think we need to embrace all the recent changes and new roles in pharmacy. Pharmacists in community have a vital role in continuing patient care and I think we need to improve communication between sectors. I would love to see more pharmacists working between sectors to build these relationships and understanding between pharmacists. If we can do that I think the impact of pharmacy could be bigger.


Are you optimistic about the future of pharmacy?


Absolutely. I think the RPS is becoming much more vocal and present in the media. With this increases the public exposure and perception of pharmacy which is allowing us to have extended professional responsibility. New roles are being created every day and these new roles allow us to develop what we want the profession to look like in the future.


What’s next for you?


I am currently in my second year of an MSc in Advanced Clinical Pharmacy Practice at the University of Strathclyde and completing my independent prescribing qualification. I hope to get these finished (and passed!) and would be looking to move into a more senior role in Medicines Information. It has been an ambition of mine to work for Health Improvement Scotland and would love to continue research and continue to be involved in education and training throughout my career. Maybe a PhD will be on the cards! There’s just so many options it can be difficult to decide but it is a great problem to have,

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