I’ve been struggling with an identity crisis for a while now, which has finally resolved itself – thanks to a recent patient encounter.
I have always considered myself to be a pharmacist. Even while I was working in different settings – most recently in general practice – I was always a pharmacist. But lately, I’ve become increasingly preoccupied by a question: Am I more than just a pharmacist? Am I a clinical pharmacist?
Having cautiously navigated the boundary between the administrative and patient-facing worlds of general practice pharmacy for many years, I can’t help but compare myself to these new and seemingly amazing ‘clinical pharmacists’. They are breaking down silos with a quick swish of their stethoscope, and clocking up clinic time so the doctors can all go home early. That’s great, but I’m just not sure I have the credentials to allow me to adopt this title.
The term ‘clinical pharmacist’ was not used much outside of the hospital sector, until the NHS England drive to relieve pressure on GPs by funding more pharmacists in general practice. I have wondered if this is a deliberate attempt to divide the profession along sectorial lines. It has certainly been met with widespread consternation from those in community pharmacy in England, who have seen their funding continue to be cut.
Or more cunningly, was the term devised to differentiate from the existing practice pharmacists, who are apparently too embroiled in the minutiae of medicines management to be of any ‘real’ use to GPs?
In my many and varied interactions with patients, I have never felt the need to label or describe myself or my practice as ‘clinical’. It just didn’t seem necessary.
Cue the patient who saved me from my identity crisis.
This elderly, frail patient had endured a hurried, late-night discharge from a hospital ward and was sent home with the wrong medication. This patient then had a traumatic few hours before finally getting sorted with the help of a pharmacist at the hospital who arranged a correct discharge prescription, and a community pharmacist, who liaised with the hospital and sign-posted the patient to me at the GP surgery, where I was able to raise new prescriptions in good time.
For the patient, the relief was palpable. “You pharmacists are everywhere and you’re amazing!” he exclaimed.
And there it was, a moment of revelation. It doesn’t matter where we are working, or how ‘clinical’ our role is regarded. It doesn’t matter what our job title is.
Patients just see us as pharmacists. If they’re not hung up about descriptors, then neither should we be.
The GP Pharmacist is a former community pharmacist working in a general practice
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