Sarah Cameron is an independent pharmacist prescriber and Director of Propharm Services and Superintendent Pharmacist at My Pharmacy 365. She took some time out to talk to us about her career progression, achievements and future plans.
How long have you been a pharmacist?
Why did you choose to become a pharmacist?
I wanted to interact with people and directly impact the application of science and medicine to patients. Even 20 years ago, the prospects and career development potential seemed exciting.
Where did you work on your first day as a pharmacist?
I worked as a rotational basic grade pharmacist in Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex. It was a great department, with pro-active staff who invested resources into technology and bringing care to the patient bedside.
What does your current role involve?
As an independent pharmacist prescriber, I manage acute prescription requests, which often involves (at the moment) telephone appointments with patients. I am a member of the diabetes management team within one GP Practice, undertaking annual reviews of patients living with diabetes. I have had fantastic clinician support to enable the development of this role, including undertaking clinical assessments. Working within primary care enables me to autonomously manage a wide variety of patients living with long term conditions and implement medication changes or clinical assessment and follow up. I try to minimise the need for further unnecessary practitioner appointments, including being able to take blood at the point of consultation. As a vaccinator, I administer annual influenza vaccines on an ad-hoc or sessional basis and have recently undertaken Covid-19 vaccination training.
In the current unprecedented circumstances, it is vital to continually strive to expand clinical experience and abilities. This enables our front-line clinicians to direct their time and skillset where they are most needed.
What do you love about your job?
Building relationships with patients and instilling confidence in the pharmacist as one of their clinical care providers. Being a consistent part of the patient journey and liaising with other services to manage any disease changes or progression creates a very person-centred approach and supports cross-sector communication.
Any aspects you dislike?
Like most healthcare workers, time and resource limitations can be frustrating, but I generally find that individuals within the health care sector strive as far as possible to do their best for their patients.
What previous roles have you undertaken as a pharmacist?
I have worked previously as a community pharmacist which has given me an insight into the pressures the sector faces.
As a locum hospital pharmacist for a number of years, I had fantastic learning opportunities working within hospital dispensaries, respiratory wards, cardiovascular care, emergency medicine, surgical admissions, paediatric speciality wards and oncology.
Looking to build my future as an experienced clinician, I took every opportunity to become involved in direct patient care to continually develop my knowledge base and learn from experienced practitioners.
Which role did you find most challenging and why?
Within emergency medical admissions wards, the pace and urgency of care could be a challenge. Adapting work planning, care plans and complex medication calculations to a changing clinical picture at any given time provided me with resilience and the ability to access resources and evidence quickly and efficiently. This is a skill I still use on a daily basis.
Do you think all pharmacists should be independent prescribers?
I think that all pharmacists should have the opportunity to access training and support to become independent prescribers. For some, their career pathway does not include the need to prescribe medication, and resources may be better directed to provide training in other areas to support career development. However, the independent prescriber training curriculum provides a valuable perspective on the realistic application of medicine. This can greatly influence how we work with our prescribing colleagues and clinicians.
What was the toughest lesson you had to learn as a pharmacist?
My own limitations, and as an independent practitioner, having the confidence and knowledge to be responsible for your own decisions. Once you expect to be working with patients to manage conditions, you have to be prepared to be accountable.
Has the pharmacists working in general practice initiative been a success in recent years?
I do think it is a success, but only where we integrate as part of the General Practice team and are provided with GP support to develop the role. In Scotland, the pharmacotherapy aspect of the GP contract provides clear direction for the general practice pharmacist role, and the ongoing developments in training and accreditation will serve to strengthen this.
Are you optimistic about the future of pharmacy?
Absolutely! As a workforce, we have shown that we can step up and develop our skills as necessary. Registered pharmacy technicians are now routinely undertaking tasks that were traditionally performed by pharmacists; as a profession, we are striding forward with career development. By continuing to undertake our work and improve communication we can enable other medical professionals to understand the support we can provide.
What’s next for you?
Imminently, participating in the national COVID vaccination scheme.
Within Propharm Services, we are currently working to provide further GP practices with the opportunity to obtain sessional pharmacist support. Many prescribing pharmacists are flexible, adaptable and keen to provide a few hours or a few days to practices, enabling effective bespoke resource management for GP practices. We are always looking to build our pharmacist team across the Central Belt.
Sarah has teamed up with Pharmacy in Practice to conduct a survey to find out how the working lives of pharmacists across the UK had been impacted on throughout the pandemic and explore the support that they may need this year and beyond.
Click here to take part in the survey
You can contact Sarah by email here.