You wait seven years for a C+D Award, and then two come along at once. In 2009, Olutayo Arikawe was shortlisted for the New Pharmacist and Manager of the Year trophies. She missed out on both accolades, but didn’t let disappointment deter her. Then, in 2016, she claimed two of C+D’s most prestigious awards – Community Pharmacist of the Year and Manager of the Year.
It started the ball rolling on a collection of awards she has earned since. Mrs Arikawe, who is superintendent at The Priory community pharmacy in Dudley, was voted by the public as the nation’s favourite pharmacist in the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) second annual ‘I Love My Pharmacist’ competition.
The pharmacy she manages has organised an impressive array of events – which she led – to promote the health of its local community, including hosting fitness sessions and pole dancing classes on the premises as well as running an annual health funfair. The Priory also runs weekly team development meetings, and is a teaching and training pharmacy.
So how does Mrs Arikawe manage to run a busy West Midlands pharmacy that caters to many different groups, while overseeing the needs of her team? She gives C+D her top tips:
Your ‘A-team’ is your best asset
My team members are very important to me, and I’m passionate about them and their welfare. That’s because I believe that when you take care of them, the team will in turn take care of the community – then the community will take care of your team.
Whatever we do [as managers], we have to place our team above ourselves and consider them in every decision that we make. In my case, it helps that we all get along very well. I’ve had to learn over the years, and you learn more about managing people as you get more experience. I haven’t always done it right, but I think I’m much better now than I was.
Consider heading back to school
I’ve done lots of managerial training, including a diploma in leadership and management at Coventry University. I’ve also taken life and business coaching courses. I’ve found these kinds of courses useful, and I would recommend them to other community pharmacists, because in pharmacy school people may not be taught how to manage people.
Improving oneself is absolutely important. I’ve paid for my courses and done them in my own time. It’s not been easy juggling that with the day job, but if you’ve got the desire to improve yourself, then you make room for it in your life. I wanted to make myself better; you can’t just stay in one place in your career. If you strive for excellence and success, then the rewards will come along with that.
Ensure the boss shares your vision
My managers support me, and the company’s directors believe in me and in what I’m trying to do, so they support me in doing it. I don’t think they were looking for someone who would keep doing the usual things: they wanted someone who would think outside the box. So their vision matched with mine.
I’m fortunate that pretty much whatever I’ve wanted to do, they’ve supported me, and they’ve not had to push me to do things. I had a vision about how I wanted to run a pharmacy and they gave me their support.
Build a rapport with patients
The C+D Awards judges noted that I had helped a patient who smoked 100 cigarettes a day to stop smoking. This is an example of how it helps to have a good rapport with your patients. It means people can come to me and ask for what they need, and I’m also able to offer them lifestyle advice.
I make time to listen to my patients and I don’t treat them as if they’re just a number. They are important to me and I want to help them with whatever positive difference I can make to their life.
Seize every opportunity
We’ve got messaging all over the pharmacy promoting our stop smoking service, so when customers come in they can ask questions. The lady with the 100-a-day habit didn’t come in looking for smoking cessation advice – she came in with a prescription for something else, but I used the opportunity to have the conversation.
I noticed she was coughing, so I raised the subject of giving up smoking. Developing a rapport and reassuring her that we could support her to give up – and empowering her to do it – all helped. As pharmacists, we’re not here to be judgmental, we’re just here for support.
Don’t be afraid to leave the pharmacy
We have a chlamydia service in the pharmacy, and to make young people aware of it we go into colleges every week to give workshops on sexual health.
We have the highest rate of returns of chlamydia tests in the Dudley area, because we give people information about the test, at a place and time that’s convenient.
We tell them about the complications and give them enough information to make a decision about testing, and that really helps drive the service.
Punctuality and plenty of paperwork: a typical day at The Priory community pharmacy in Dudley
Superintendent pharmacist Olutayo Arikawe is clearly busy – she had to make time during her week off just to talk to C+D. She says meticulous time management, which she learned during her management courses, is key to making sure she and her staff are able to cram in all of their many daily tasks and clinical services.
“I know when to make something a priority,” she tells C+D. “I never allow anything that is important to become urgent, I make sure I deal with it before it gets to a critical stage.” This requires making the most of daily to-do lists, as well as preparing meetings and planning paperwork before the pharmacy opens.
“Because I’m very passionate about pharmacy, it also rubs off on my staff. I mentor my staff and help them prioritise too,” she says.
So what does a typical day look like for Mrs Arikawe?
8am Preparation at home: check emails, and finish off any paperwork from the day before
8.45am Arrive at pharmacy
9am Pharmacy opens
9-10am Typical pharmacy tasks, eg preparing methadone doses and labelling
10-11am Team meetings, an opportunity to leave the pharmacy to run sexual health workshops or other public health outreach work
11-2pm Patient appointments and walk-ins, meetings with other pharmacists
2-2.30pm Lunch (or monthly 1-2-1 meetings with staff)
2.30-3pm Check emails, meeting with pharmacy stakeholders
3-4pm More pharmacy tasks
4-5pm Training work experience staff, students, pre-registration trainees or apprentices
5-6pm Sorting through paperwork, prepare for next day
6pm Pharmacy closes