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The pharmacist who told her mental health story

Part one- career


Why did you become a pharmacist?


I didn’t consider pharmacy until the day I got my O level results. I had planned to do geography, but only got a C & did much better in my science O levels than expected, so was encouraged to consider a science-based career. My father was a Consultant Anaesthetist at Papworth Hospital and had a very good relationship with Liz Bligh (Chief Pharmacist) and she suggested I considered pharmacy. I spent some time with Liz at Papworth and visited the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain before making my final decision.


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


My 1st day as a pharmacist was 26 years ago on 3rd August 1992. I went from being a pre-registration pharmacist at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital on the 31st July to being the only pharmacist in the dispensary at Hinchingbrooke Hospital on the 3rd August. This was extremely challenging, but I very quickly learnt to stand on my own two feet.


What roles have you undertaken as a pharmacist?


From 1996 to 2002 I was Specialist Pharmacist Clinical Nutrition at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH). I was the pharmacist in the nutrition support team and developed a very close working relationship with other health care professionals within the nutrition team including consultants, dieticians, nurses and biochemists.


I was also involved in the care of children who received parenteral nutrition (PN) at home, working closely with a Consultant Gastroenterologist, a Specialist Nutrition Nurse, a Senior Dietician and commercial manufacturing companies to ensure that the PN formulations provided met the patients? nutritional requirements and were physically and chemically stable.


While working at GOSH I was part of a team that validated the Baxa Micro Macro compounder. I performed the particulate validation with Dr Ben Forbes (King’s College London) as part of an MSc in Clinical Nutrition and Immunology.


During this time I was a member of the British Pharmaceutical Nutrition Group (BPNG) executive committee and in collaboration with Professor Barnett & Allwood I wrote the BPNG position paper for use of filters with PN which was published in Nutrition in 2001.


In 2002 I had the incredible opportunity to move to New Zealand and work as a Clinical Pharmacy Lecturer at the School of Pharmacy, the University of Otago in Dunedin. I was involved in the preparation of a new clinical pharmacy course as part of the development of the Quality Use of Medicines undergraduate pharmacy curriculum. During my time in New Zealand I supervised undergraduate and postgraduate research projects and I performed my own research projects that investigated the prevalence of aseptic dispensing units within hospitals in New Zealand (presented at New Zealand Healthcare Pharmacists Association Conference) and the teaching of aseptic dispensing at Schools of Pharmacy in New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada, which I presented as an oral paper and poster at the International Pharmacy Federation (FIP) conference in 2004.


I am currently Clinical Trials Pharmacist at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (C&V UHB), a post I have held since 2006. I am member of a small specialist clinical trials team within pharmacy (3 pharmacists and 3 technicians) who are responsible for the management of investigational medicinal products (IMP) for over 100 clinical trials running within the Health Board, ensuring that the IMP are stored, accounted for and dispensed according to current good clinical practice legislation. We work closely with local investigators and the research and development department to review clinical trials protocols for trials that Health Board is approached to host, ensuring that the pharmacy department has the capacity and capability to host these trials.


Which role did you find most challenging and why?


I found the Clinical Pharmacy Lectureship the most challenging, as well as writing new course material I was expected to undertake a part-time PhD. I regularly worked more than 12 hrs a day, writing the course material and teaching during working hours and then going home in the evening to prepare a PhD project proposal and write grant applications. I planned to assess the impact of a primary care pharmacist-managed intervention for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. After writing 10 grant applications over a period of a few months I was awarded funding by the New Zealand Heart Foundation to perform this PhD project. Unfortunately, I was mentally and physically exhausted after this period of sustained pressure and I decided that for my health I needed to return to the UK and didn’t start the PhD.


Which did you enjoy the most?


Although I found the Clinical Pharmacy Lectureship challenging I found this role extremely rewarding. I loved working with pharmacy undergraduates, sparking their interest in clinical pharmacy and giving them some of the foundations for their future career as a pharmacist. I’m still in contact with many of the students I taught in New Zealand, through Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve enjoyed watching their pharmacy careers develop. One of my 1st students, Brendon Jiang, is now working in the UK as a Primary Care pharmacist and we regularly meet up at conferences and will be going through the RPS Faculty process together this autumn.



Part two – mental health



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