Sharron Gordon is a freelance pharmacist consultant in anticoagulation and an aesthetics practitioner.
Léa Legraien talks to her about her role, experience and love for the profession
Q Why did you become a pharmacist?
A I was always interested in the science of medicines and particularly enjoyed chemistry. It was a really good and practical way to link my pleasure of working with people and my scientific interests. As a woman, this career has given me amazing flexibility in terms of being able to take time out to travel and look after kids and it has diversified quite a lot from my original mission.
Q How did you get involved in aesthetics pharmacy?
A I didn’t realise that pharmacists could work in the aesthetics field but did some investigation and quite enjoyed that. It takes a lot of the skills I already have and allows much more hands on the clinical and practical aspects.
It’s quite different from pharmacy. I’m coming from a hospital background, where I used to work as part of a big team. When you always have somebody next door, you can ask them about a particular patient you’re looking at. It can feel a little bit isolated working as an aesthetics practitioner because you’re sometimes the only person in the clinic and have to be able to deal with any situation that arises and feel competent to do that.
Q How unusual is your role?
A It’s difficult to tell how many aesthetics pharmacists there are in the UK, but it’s maybe up to about 400. It’s not entirely unusual but very much a new and growing role.
Pharmacists are really coming out, developing their skills in this area and discovering what they’ve got to offer.
Q What’s the key to your success?
A Having communication skills and my ability to build rapport with the client I work with so that they understand the purpose of the treatment and what the risks are.
I guess resilience because it’s not easy setting up something new, going and finding out how to do the training to get the best out of it.
Also, building a new network to get the support I need to develop new skills and do the absolute best I can for the patient I have.
Q What are your biggest achievements?
A Being hugged by a patient because they’re so delighted with the loss of wrinkles on their chins or faces, which were making them feel low. That’s really rewarding and lovely when you do something for somebody and they say, ‘Oh wow, you did that for me’.
Q What challenges have you faced along the way?
A One of my greatest challenges was working as a deputy chief pharmacist at a time when the focus of delivering roles like that was about extending hours and weekend services.
I was in this job for around eight years and delivered five different contractual changes in the job description and I would say that the existing support within the structure was wholly unequipped to do that.
When you’re delivering really difficult changes in pharmacy that affect people’s lives, you need far more support to do that and work through it.
Q What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt?
A I guess having a wide number of different mentors for different activities to talk about problems you’re experiencing and to be honest about work or situations you’re not comfortable with or able to do.
Q What are the key qualities of a good leader?
A Communication skills, openness and transparency. Living against your own values and being really clear about what they are and how they translate into day-to-day practice.
Q What advice would you give to women who want to be aesthetic practitioners?
A Take time doing your training and make sure you feel you have the confidence to be able to deal with situations, which will naturally occur and create anxiety.
Make sure you have the support network behind you when you go into clinical practice and that you’re able to go to somebody and say, ‘I’m worried about this or this is what I’m thinking, what do you think about it?’.
Q What makes you happy at work?
A My happiness at work comes from lots of different angles, including seeing the outcome measures from my anticoagulation work and the various flexibilities I have working freelance.
I love changing things in the healthcare system. My job has lots of varieties and allows my to use my strategic skills and gives me a very personal insight in people’s lives. I love the positive feedback from people about the impact my treatment has on their lives.
Q How would you describe the current state of pharmacy?
A I’ve heard stories from local colleagues about drugs being turned away because of the costs of dispensing those being higher than the fee they get back from the NHS. I think that’s absolutely horrific.
[The role of pharmacist is undervalued], particularly in aesthetics, and we’re spending a lot of time trying to challenge this. Although the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) acknowledges that pharmacists are part of the aesthetics practice – we’re insured to do the work we do and can attend training – many drug companies exclude pharmacists from their list of healthcare professionals to undergo their training. [As a result], pharmacists pay a fortune to get their aesthetics training done.
I think a lot of that comes from a total lack of understanding about what the training of a pharmacist is and how that compares to other healthcare professionals, as pharmacists now have a huge variety of jobs.
Q What changes would you like to see?
A I’d love pharmacists to be seen as part of the healthcare professional team, with the same support and network as prescribing nurses, doctors and dentists get.
I’d really like to see more openness in the field of aesthetics and some of the big pharmacy bodies to take on selling to patients what the role and skills of the pharmacists are and change the old fashioned mentality about what the pharmacist’s role is.
Q What does the future hold for pharmacy?
A There are a lot of opportunities out there for pharmacists. Getting our voice heard and having one unified voice is absolutely fundamental. We cannot be brawling internally between different sectors. I think the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has a huge role in providing that but at the moment, maybe only half of pharmacists are members.