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Are locums out of sync with the rest of the pharmacy team?

"As a locum in a new pharmacy, I am not allowed to join the fray"

How can locum pharmacists overcome the feeling of not being part of the team, asks C+D's clinical editor

Do you ever feel like you are out of sync with those around you, or that you are constantly stepping on people’s toes? As a locum pharmacist – not based in any one place – I regularly do.

I won’t deny that when I arrive to work at a new pharmacy, I’m hoping for a straightforward day, without missing CD scripts, staff absences or a patient kicking off because I (the store) forgot to order a prescription for 84 strawberry Fortisip the day before I arrived.

But the feeling of being out of kilter with a pharmacy isn’t just down to a difficult day, but a sense of being out of step with the rest of the pharmacy team. To my eyes, the full-time technicians, dispensers and counter staff all move through the pharmacy with a grace and awareness that I haven’t mastered, and it often makes me look like a bull in a china shop.

As a locum in a new pharmacy, I am not allowed to join the fray. Instead, on arrival I am swiftly shown to the counter, and told I will remain there all day. They will indicate where the toilet is in relation to my current position, and – if I’m lucky – they offer me tea.

I check my prescriptions and speak to patients when appropriate, and everything generally goes smoothly. At least until I find I have been given a wrong item – the wrong strength inhaler, for example. At this point I think: “No problem, I will look after this myself. I am a self-sufficient locum pharmacist.”

I gaze around me and try to locate where the inhalers are kept. I have to ask for help twice. When I eventually find them, I knock over a precariously piled tower of Spiriva, and have to pick them up under the impatient gaze of an accuracy checking technician.

When I finish cleaning up the mess I caused, I rush back to the ‘safe space’ I was allocated. In my haste, I nearly topple a technician who is zooming round the pharmacy searching for a special that was delivered that morning. She looks at me suspiciously after accepting my apologies.

Sometimes I think I am not suited to the transient life of a locum. I think back to the last time I was in one place for a long time – during my pre-registration year. I wonder if back then I was able to anticipate the movements of my colleagues. Was I part of the choreography?

I do notice that when I locum for a prolonged period in the same store, I bump into pharmacy staff less often, and they grow more tolerant of my invasive presence.

Is this because they have finally given in and adapted to me? Or is it because I’m finally starting to move to their groove?

Kristoffer Stewart is CPD and clinical editor of C+D, as well as a locum community pharmacist. Email him at [email protected] or contact him on Twitter @CandDKristoffer

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Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

As stated elsewhere, following the pharmacy routine makes for an easier day. Making changes and criticism are usually the best way to not getting asked for a return visit (emergencies not withstanding and severe staffing/operational issues which you would want to avoid going back to if ongoing).

Myke Kofi, Locum pharmacist

Interesting insights Kristoffer, highlighting some of the real clinical and financial risks and increasingly diminishing benefits of working as a locum pharmacist. One is also the Responsible Pharmacist on duty and accountable to the GPhC, so you've got to find simple, practical ways to make your locum days work for you and support staff; and ultimately for patients and customers. Also, I'd recommended enrolling on CCG, LPC and STP mailing lists to keep in touch with local, regional and national healthcare networks.

Kathleen thornton, Locum pharmacist

A Locum stays out of the staff politics and you don't have to go back if it's awful. I love the variety

Kathleen thornton, Locum pharmacist

Locum work can be enjoyable. Take pastries, biscuits, be willing to help put stock away etc.  A good Locum will be invited back... I usually do a quick check of how they like the scripts bagged... Staples,clips, rubber bands to attach scripts? Repeats in the bag or not?


Shaon Mukherjee, Locum pharmacist

Good luck. Locum pharmacy is a mugs game

Arvind Sami, Locum pharmacist

In my experience, on the surface I seem to gel pretty quick in a new pharmacy. Last Saturday I was in a new pharmacy, and it's the same routine of asking what's most important for them and a memory for the quick introduction to the pharmacy and where things are kept. One of the things I do, is to try and find common interests, and show a genuine interest in who they are. Also bringing pastries helps.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

I have a lot of sympathy for anyone arriving in a new Pharmacy and being expected to be a useful member of the team straight away, but, that said, the simplest way to do it is to ask what would you like me to do... most places will be only too pleased to give you a quick briefing - what you do if the place is obviously fallinng apart is another story

By all means ask some questions to reassure yourself about qualifications, roles etc but if it aint broke....

We have a well rehearsed, smooth sytem here and it works very well.Unfortunately we get a few locums who know better and the usual result is me walking in on my return to chaos and loads of work they didnt get done..whereas if they had listened,they would have had a nice, easy day and gone home with all the work completed.

Good luck and keep taking the bookings - we need good Locums!


Best Farma, Ecommerce

You're clearly not assertive enough if you're going to be pushed around by dispensers and counter staff.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

....and presumably why you are in e commerce..

Best Farma, Ecommerce

Anyone with half a brain or anything about them would be agitating to leave community pharmacy as it's a dead sector and you get treated like s***. Only contractors who make some money out of the whole gig are happy to stay for now.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

All true but you don't have to act like a pompous arse (yes, I've come across plenty of those) just because you are a pharmacist. I locumed for 14 years and in that time I had an awful lot of fun just from talking to the staff like the real people they are. One of the major things I learned is that a vast number of dispensers are total potty mouths but if you treat them right they will a) have you back and b) help you out more. 

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