What’s it like to be a pharmacist in the third sector?


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By Sasa Jankovic
Freelance journalist

25 Oct 2019

Roz Gittins qualified as a pharmacist in 2008, following her undergraduate MPharm at Cardiff University and spending her final year of studies at the University of North Carolina in the United States.

Having since completed several postgraduate qualifications, she talks to Sasa Jankovic about her route to her latest role as director of pharmacy for Humankind, a national third sector provider specialising in substance misuse.

The Humankind charity creates services and support to meet people’s complex health and social needs, helping them to build healthier lives that have meaning and value for themselves and their families.

 

What made you want to get into pharmacy in the first place?

‘I was looking for a professional qualification that would give me flexibility because I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do. However, I had personal experience of supporting people who had problems with their mental health and substance misuse.

‘I gained more professional experience of this and became increasingly aware of the problems in delivering services to meet peoples’ needs, and this drove me to specialise in this field.’

 

What was your route to your new role as Director of Pharmacy at Humankind?

‘I started my career in the NHS and I haven’t really had much time away from University since my undergraduate studies. I initially completed a clinical diploma in secondary care at Bath University and then went on to specialise in psychiatric pharmacy. I studied at Aston University, first completing a post grad certificate then the MSc.

‘I went to Robert Gordon University to complete my independent prescribing qualification and somewhere in between I’ve completed the British Association of Psychopharmacology and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) drug and alcohol use disorders certificates, and I’m now a senior trainer for the RCGP Certificates.

‘I never sat down and planned my career, but as I moved into new jobs, I’ve found that my studies have very much complemented them, such as training in leadership and provision of clinical supervision.’

 

How have your studies been funded?

‘My initial postgraduate training was funded by my employer and training bursaries, for example from the College of Mental Health Pharmacy.

‘Latterly, I have increasingly self-funded [my education], which has meant taking on additional self-employed work on top of working full time and balancing a busy home life as well as other professional commitments.

‘I’m currently undertaking a Doctorate (PharmD) and feel incredibly fortunate to have been awarded a research grant, which is going to make an enormous difference.’

 

How is this role different from your previous roles in pharmacy?

‘My last couple of jobs – which were director of pharmacy roles – have been more strategic and required more external interface working. However, at my core is my operational/clinical experience of working in services.

‘I have found that this prior experience continues to underpin the way in which I work: everything we do is fundamentally about ensuring high quality and safe service provision so that the people who use our services receive the best possible care.’

 

What are the positives of the director of pharmacy role?

‘I really enjoy the variety: it’s really rewarding to know that the work we do is helping to make a difference to peoples’ lives.’

 

And what are the challenges?

‘Effective time management and balancing competing demands, particularly when working across national services, is a perpetual challenge. This makes having supportive colleagues that you can work together collaboratively with really important.’

 

Are there any specific qualities that a pharmacist in this kind of role should possess?

‘Keeping the people that we’re here to provide a service for at the heart of what we do is essential. The role requires a flexible, pragmatic approach, especially as we can sometimes find ourselves working in grey areas, often with vulnerable individuals who may have complex needs.’

 

Would you recommend a third sector role to other pharmacists?

‘Absolutely! I think the third sector is increasingly recognising the value that the pharmacy profession brings, and the role of pharmacy technicians is important too, especially when it comes to innovative service delivery.’

 

And finally, what you would like to see develop in the future for your speciality?

‘I’d really like to see more pharmacy professionals, both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, specialising in the [third sector] field and particularly in more senior roles. For example, pharmacists as service clinical leads and in executive clinical director or equivalent posts.’


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