Improving your career pathway
It's not all about the money. Career progression is widely recognised as an important and effective staff motivation and retention tool. But less than one in 10 employee community pharmacists received a promotion in the past 12 months, the C+D Salary Survey 2011 revealed, and several respondents highlighted the impact on workforce morale that arises from a lack of career opportunity within the sector.
It's not a problem that has escaped the attention of the national pharmacy bodies. The Salary Survey findings came as RPS chief executive Helen Gordon told C+D developing the career pathway for its members was a key priority (C+D, May 14, p24), and follows the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) suggestion of two new roles for community pharmacists at its conference earlier this year. "There is a lack of an obvious career pathway," agrees Christine Heading of the National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAPW). "There is no service that can help pharmacists get from where they are now to where they want to be."
Her views are echoed by Numark director of professional services Mimi Lau, who says there needs to be a plan or ‘map' if career pathways are not obvious to pharmacists. "Maybe people are not so sure what they can do, maybe they are unsure of whether their skills are transferable. Maybe that needs to be improved on," she says.
A national overhaul
The good news is that steps have begun to be taken to address the problem at a national level. Modernising Pharmacy Careers (MPC) is the organisation (within the wider Medical Education England) charged with overhauling the sector's education, training and national workforce planning, and one priority of its board is a "review of post-registration pharmacy workforce career development".
The government's community pharmacy tsar Jonathan Mason, a member of the MPC board, says there is a need to change the current situation and confirms it is "definitely something [MPC] has thought about in terms of career development in terms of pharmacy".
He points out that the situation in community pharmacy is very different to hospital pharmacy. "In secondary care the career path is more management focused, but if you want to specialise clinically there are the consultant pharmacist positions that have been developed over the past couple of years.
"In primary care there are opportunities for people to progress from junior positions up to chief pharmacists, but we are aware that in community pharmacy there are fewer opportunities," Mr Mason says. "We need to look at education post-registration."
The need for post-registration specialisation is something RPS CEO Helen Gordon wants to work with MPC on. "Within a couple of years I'd want [members] to be able to feel they've got a clear [career] pathway, they've got support from their professional organisation to navigate their way through it, and that they can access easily the development they need," she tells C+D.
"The RPS knows how important a career map is to our members and the profession as a whole," adds director of professional development and support Catherine Duggan. A map would allow pharmacists to identify the knowledge, skills and experience they needed to move from job to job and sector to sector, she explains.
The RPS is creating a network of "the knowledge, skills and experiences needed to advance and support pharmacists", she adds.
"We are building a mentor database to enable members to find someone who can give advice and support about their career development, changing sector or indeed up-skilling to enable them to deliver new services, in a new way, from new commissioners," Ms Duggan says.
Ms Lau agrees that pharmacists should share expertise on career progression, and points out that learning doesn't have to be formal. This is good news, as the Salary Survey 2011 found almost a quarter of contractors were having to reduce their training budget.
The employers' role
There is also an obligation on the part of the employer to provide opportunities for career progression, and the Co-operative Pharmacy and Lloydspharmacy, for example, can both demonstrate they have plans in place.
Co-operative Pharmacy learning and development manager for healthcare Nicola Brady points out the company has a ‘manager in training' programme, which builds on the skills learned in the pre-registration year, and an academy development programme for managers showing future potential.
"Other opportunities for development include secondments into the professional department and the operations team, or working on projects within business development or logistics functions," she adds.
And a spokesperson from Lloydspharmacy says the company has a number of mechanisms available to assist the progression of pharmacists' careers.
"Managers have career conversations with their teams and develop personal development plans within performance management. In addition, there is a range of other mechanisms including advertising all internal opportunities across the business, assessment centres to prepare colleagues for their next steps, company-supported professional development delivered both internally and externally, and an annual HR plan and central training calendar, which is regularly communicated to employees," she says.
But students should use their influence to encourage employers to provide more career opportunities, according to Ms Heading. "The people who could do this are the students. BPSA could approach employers and ask them, what are their plans? And I think [BPSA] could do it as [employers] like to create a good impression on students."
How to climb the career ladder
MedicX Pharmacy operations director Gavin Birchall suggests five steps to ensure your rise up the ranks
Give good attitude
It's for the individual to decide what their attitude and their approach to work is. Make sure you understand the goals of your organisation – whether that's an independent, multiple, or even if you own your own business. Understand what the organisation wants to achieve, and align yourself with that. Engage with your line manager and understand their personal goals, too, and make sure you and your behaviour contribute.
Check your competency
It's essential to be competent in your role – and, indeed, at the top end of the scale in what you're currently doing. But competency also includes personal, business and managerial effectiveness. Personal effectiveness, such as time management and interaction with people, can be developed, but you need to put the effort in to work out what you need to improve and how to do that. Business effectiveness includes an understanding of how the business is structured and what's important within that structure; and managerial effectiveness is understanding the people within the business.
Make sure when you do things well people are aware of it – don't just sit back and assume people will notice. But it needs to be subtle – people don't like you going in all guns blazing.
Get some exposure
The leap between some roles, such as from pharmacy manager to field manager, can be too great if you have no prior experience, so it's important to build up your exposure, awareness and experience of potential roles before you take that step.
Ask for it
Some personal development work you can do yourself, but you also need to be proactive in asking the relevant people within your company for help. Ask your line manager if you can be involved in wider projects other than your usual role. You can be specific if you know exactly what you want to do, ie progress in a certain area such as clinical, business or management. But if you're not sure, be honest and ask for some experience in several areas. It's about developing a dialogue about the fact that you want to progress.
Salary Survey 2011 results
of employee community pharmacists received a promotion in the past 12 months
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