When I was a newly qualified hospital pharmacist working on a night shift, I received a phone call from a fellow graduate working at another hospital asking to order a medication. When filling in the requisition paperwork, I had to submit their job title.
When I asked my colleague what their position was, they replied “post-registration pharmacist”, to which my fellow on-call pharmacist and I started laughing hard. The delirium of working at 10:30pm on your third 17-hour night shift in a row cannot be overstated, but the suggestion was ridiculous.
“Post-registration pharmacist,” I said, “so you mean a pharmacist?” The job is a protected term that can only be achieved by being registered. They thought about this, laughed, and said: “Well it’s what our trust uses as a title.” We moved on to getting the medications sent up the road.
Think about that title for a minute. Have you ever heard of a post-registration doctor, nurse or physio? I certainly haven’t. Including “post-registration” seems like an unnecessary quantification of the role. We shouldn’t need a title in front of “pharmacist” unless we are in extremely specialist roles.
Yet as pharmacists all we seem to do is differentiate ourselves from each other in ever more extreme ways. The title “clinical pharmacist” is something I cannot support. I think it is something we need to be aware of as both silly and dangerous. Just like with “post-registration pharmacist”, the point about a pharmacist being clinical is moot and should be laughed at.
We are the third-largest healthcare profession in the UK with our own regulating body. The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) says pharmacists are responsible for “ensuring that the medicines prescribed to patients are suitable”. This cannot be done without the individual being clinical in both training and in action.
I have laboured that point to show just how toxic and damaging it is to start using the term “clinical” in job titles for certain members of the profession and not for others. The term drives a wedge through the profession.
To other healthcare professionals and, worse still, to the public, the term signals that some pharmacists are more qualified than others. If we stay collectively silent about the ongoing usage of “clinical pharmacist”, not only are we complicit in it becoming deeper embedded in the sector, but we signal how the profession can be split into tiers. This allows the argument for a five-year pharmacist apprenticeship scheme, which could lead to poorer wages and worse respect for all of us.
Harry Cotterill is a primary care network pharmacist based in Erewash, Derbyshire