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How to secure a job in general practice pharmacy

Are you considering a change of sector? Follow these easy steps to maximise your changes of bagging a job in general practice, says Shilpa Patel

When I reminisce about the experience of my first GP pharmacist interview many years ago, I can recall the excitement as I embarked on a new chapter of my professional journey. Over the past nine years, I have left no stone unturned in my quest to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the inner workings of GP practices.


With so many pharmacists making the move into primary care pharmacy, I thought I’d share some advice on how to prepare for a general practice interview. A successful interview not only provides you with an opportunity to showcase your skills and knowledge, but also paves the way for a rewarding career in general practice pharmacy.


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This article will guide you in mastering your general practice pharmacist interview, covering important aspects such as preparation, key skills and common interview questions.



Prepare for success



The key to excelling in any job interview starts with thorough preparation. Prior to your interview, it is crucial to research the general practice you are applying to. Familiarise yourself with the team’s values, mission, and any recent developments or projects they have undertaken by looking at the practice’s website and social media accounts. This knowledge will help you understand the team's expectations and also demonstrate your genuine interest in working with them.


Read more: How I made the transition to general practice pharmacy


In addition, make sure you are well-versed in the current trends and issues in general practice pharmacy. Stay updated with the latest guidelines, regulations, and advancements in the field. This will help you to answer questions confidently and also show your dedication to professional growth.



Do your research



Understand local targets by researching the local integrated care board’s (ICB) prescribing policies and agenda by getting in contact via its website or by connecting with local networks and attending a webinar or a workshop.


Read the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report of the general practice you are applying to; this will provide you with valuable insight into the areas where the practice may require support and improvement.


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Additionally, the website Fingertips can offer a wealth of data and information about general practices nationwide. This platform allows you to access relevant details regarding the performance, patient demographics and overall quality of care delivered by the surgery. By studying this information, you will be better equipped to evaluate the practice's effectiveness and identify areas where your expertise and input could be of value. 


Another key aspect is the prescribing trends exhibited by the practice. Open Prescribing is an invaluable resource that lets you analyse and comprehend the surgery's general prescribing practices. This information will help you identify instances where the practice may be underspending or in need of prescribing improvements.


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For instance, there might be a need for a review of its vitamin and minerals prescribing or an opportunity to optimise cardiac prevention strategies. By addressing these areas of improvement during the interview process, you can demonstrate your keen interest and valuable insights to the interviewer.


You may even bring knowledge to the team’s attention knowledge they were not previously aware of, thus setting yourself apart from other candidates and increasing your chances of securing the job!



Demonstrate your knowledge



Being a general practice pharmacist requires a diverse skillset to meet the challenges of a primary care setting. Skills that interviewers commonly look for include strong verbal and written communication skills, commitment to providing patient-centred care, problem-solving and being able to collaborate with multiple healthcare professionals to deliver comprehensive care.


To evaluate the competency and approach towards patient care, interviews for a general practice pharmacist role may include clinical scenarios. A question I was asked at my own interview was around polypharmacy – a patient presenting with multiple chronic conditions and various medications. This scenario aimed to evaluate my ability to assess and manage complex medication regimens while considering the patient's overall health status.


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I don’t remember how I answered this question. However, sitting on the other side now, an ideal response would demonstrate a systematic approach to reviewing medications, identifying potential drug interactions or adverse effects, and providing appropriate recommendations. Additionally, I would expect you to consider the patient's preferences, lifestyle and goals of therapy when making medication-related decisions.


A clinical scenario I ask in my interviews involves a patient seeking advice on managing a minor ailment. This scenario tests a pharmacist's ability to provide evidence-based and patient-centred care for self-limiting conditions.


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You would be expected to demonstrate your knowledge of appropriate over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and provide advice on symptom management, self-care strategies and when to seek further medical attention. Effective communication skills are crucial in this scenario, as you must provide clear instructions and address any concerns or misconceptions the patient may have.


Mastering your general practice pharmacist interview requires thorough preparation, strong communication skills, and a comprehensive understanding of the role. By researching the organisation, staying updated with current trends, and highlighting your skills, you will be well-equipped to tackle any interview question.


Remember to be confident, professional, and passionate about your desire to contribute to general practice pharmacy. With careful preparation and a solid understanding of the key aspects, you can excel in your interview and pave the way for a successful career as a general practice pharmacist.


Shilpa Patel is the lead prescribing pharmacist and a GP partner at WellBN in East Sussex

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