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‘Moving from community to PCN pharmacy was nerve-wracking’

“Would I be asked a question and suddenly find myself like a fish out of water?”

Transitioning as a pharmacist from the community into a primary care network (PCN) role helped Laura Buckley tap into her unused knowledge

When the time came to make the transition from working in a community pharmacy to becoming a primary care network (PCN) pharmacist earlier this year, I was a bag of nerves.

I’m used to changing and adjusting to new roles, having completed my pre-registration year in a hospital setting, followed by time as a locum and then a community pharmacy manager. Still, that didn’t halt the waves of worry that plagued my mind about whether I was truly capable of taking on the new job.

The fear lay with my clinical skills. Would I know enough? Would I be asked a question and suddenly find myself like a fish out of water, gasping for answers, all the while looking incompetent and underprepared?

As a community pharmacist, I loathe the terms ‘retail’ and ‘clinical’ pharmacist, because we are all ‘clinical’ pharmacists. These terms suggest that community pharmacists have no clinical relevance in healthcare. The differentiation frustrates me, because I am well aware of just how much I use my clinical skills daily.

That being said, as a community pharmacist I thought that there were areas where I didn’t use some knowledge in great depth. I secretly feared that the lesser-used knowledge wasn’t just dusty in the back of my mind somewhere, but was long gone.

During the first week in my new role as a PCN pharmacist in January, I was introduced to the various teams across the sites that I would be working with. I’m sure I asked enough questions to irritate even the most patient of people. Navigating my way around the processes across different practices and new IT systems were my first challenges, and I soon found myself answering questions about medicine queries.

The knowledge I had previously declared irretrievable was found. I was amazed that I could remember information that I hadn’t used in years. This gave me a confidence boost, as did being surrounded by great teams of supportive colleagues.

My practices have allowed me to undertake training so that I’m able to do more, and I’m feeling more fulfilled. I’m learning every day and gaining more confidence through seeing the results of my hard work as well as positivity from patients unlike any I’ve experienced before. I've even started my own medication review clinics. 

I’ve known the pressure and stress of managing a community pharmacy and I continue to spread the word about the issues faced by the sector. Although I’m no longer a full-time community pharmacist, I think that with the right support and funding, community pharmacy has a huge role to play in the future of healthcare. I’m using my passion for the sector to help me look for ways my PCN can engage with colleagues in community pharmacy.

In January I was frightened of how I would manage outside my comfort zone. But rather than letting my fear trap me where I was not happy, I moved into a role that gave me my mojo back. I can continue to provide patients with healthcare while being supported to develop my role and my learning.

If there’s one thing I’ve realised as part of my new position, it’s that community pharmacy colleagues should be offered more support to attend training sessions and should feel that their employer genuinely supports their vision for the pharmacy.

I finally feel like my role is valued and I can’t describe how good it feels. I’m inspired and I can only hope that changes to funding and services will improve so that my colleagues across the pharmacy sector can feel as positive as I do.

Laura Buckley is a PCN and locum pharmacist based in Hull


N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

"" I would encourage as many people as possible who feel this way to try and experience something new""

If we take this advice then --

1. How many such places are on offer?

2. What happens to the community sector, which these roles are supposed to support?

Any thoughts, if dispensing becomes remote (HUB & Spoke) and most Independents close down due to funding problems? What would these PCN/ Practice Pharmacists do?

Many unanswered questions.

Tired Manager, Community pharmacist

I was only referring to those that were fed up, if you are happy in your community pharmacy role then that's great - continue to do what you do best and serve/care for your community. I simply agree with the article - If you are fed up don't let fear stop you applying for jobs in other sectors. Whether that be primary care/hospital/industry/something altogether different... it's easy to feel trapped when the reality may be quite the opposite.

Tired Manager, Community pharmacist

I recently did a similar thing and moved into a primary care role (although due to geographical location there are no PCNs here)... I'm sure we can all relate to feeling miserable and largely abandoned in the traditional "pharmacy manager" role and I would encourage as many people as possible who feel this way to try and experience something new. Ignore the headline salary (I took a big pay cut) - you will be part of a clinical team, you will have opportunities for flexible working (in light of COVID-19 changing how healthcare operates I will soon be able to work from home), you will be valued and asked how you want the role to develop.

I agree more needs to be done to help those in "retail" access proper learning and development opportunities (not just a fudged together slideshow to accredit for another Mickey Mouse service). Whether there is an appetite for anyone to fund this - time will tell!


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