The pharmacist tutor and educator
Simon Harris describes his experience in developing and delivering a range of education programmes for pharmacy professionals, as well as the reasons why he became a tutor, and the benefits this has brought to his career.
Source: Courtesy of Simon Harris
Simon Harris is head of education and training at Green Light Campus, community pharmacist and preregistration training manager at Green Light Pharmacy, honorary lecturer at University College London, events tutor at the Centre for Pharmacy and Postgraduate Education (CPPE), and preregistration revision course tutor at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).
What is your current role and how did you get there?
I currently work as education and training lead at Green Light Campus, the education and training arm of Green Light Healthcare, and am responsible for the development and delivery of a range of education programmes for pharmacy professionals from undergraduate to postgraduate level.
My role in training began as a preregistration tutor in 2007. I was apprehensive when first offered the role, as I thought the additional responsibility would have a significant impact on my workload, in terms of running a busy pharmacy and supporting the development of a preregistration trainee. However, I was amazed at how rewarding the experience was and how much it helped me develop as a young pharmacist. It was from this moment that my interest in tutoring and training began, and my roles in education and training have developed each year since.
I joined Green Light Pharmacy in 2010 as lead pharmacist for its Euston branch. After four years, having tutored a preregistration trainee throughout this time, I began to help with the teaching on the Green Light preregistration study day programme. My teaching commitments at this stage were minimal, but as our collaboration with the University College London School of Pharmacy developed, I began to run regular pharmacy practice workshops from our purpose-built teaching centre.
Each year, I am amazed at the progression preregistration trainees make
Why did you decide to focus on education and training and, in particular, become a tutor?
Each year, I am amazed at the progression preregistration trainees make in terms of their knowledge, skills, maturity and professionalism during their training. I enjoy coaching trainees, listening to their concerns and trying to help them overcome them, to become the best pharmacist they can be.
My experience and lessons from the first few preregistration trainees I taught at the start of my career have been invaluable in developing and shaping my role.
In 2014, and around the time I began teaching more frequently, I noticed a job advertisement for a tutor at CPPE — which provides education and training for pharmacy professionals across England — and thought it would complement my new role, so I applied.
My role with CPPE allows me to facilitate workshops around London on a wide range of clinical and non-clinical topics. The training provided to CPPE tutors is excellent, and after watching myself presenting on video as part of my own learning, I immediately identified the habits that I had to learn to break.
My role as a tutor has required me to further develop my skills with pharmaceutical calculations, to better support my trainees. As a result, I started to enjoy writing calculations questions and in 2015 was invited to join the RPS preregistration revision course as part of the calculations team. Expanding my role within tutoring has, therefore, led to opportunities I couldn’t have predicted.
Briefly describe a typical day in your role, and what are the main challenges?
As well as working as a community pharmacist at Green Light Pharmacy, my day usually includes planning meetings with the training team at Green Light Campus, developing learning material for our preregistration study day programme, and managing projects that we’ve been commissioned to provide on behalf of Health Education England.
I often find that the preparation work I do for one role helps me when carrying out another
There is a lot of overlap between my roles at Green Light, CPPE and the RPS, and I often find that the preparation work I do for one role helps me when carrying out another.
For example, the leadership workshops that I have facilitated for CPPE support my preparation for the ‘bite-sized leadership programme’ that I run for Green Light Campus. In the same way, the calculations training that I provide for preregistration pharmacists as part of the Green Light preregistration study day programme is good practice for when I’m on stage teaching 200 preregistration trainees for the RPS.
What elements of your preregistration training did you find most valuable and how has this influenced your role as a tutor?
I completed my preregistration training year from 2002–2003 in a large teaching hospital in Glasgow. An incredibly valuable part of the training was being left alone to advise patients on their medication from an early stage of my training year. I enjoyed this challenge and, looking back, I learnt a great deal from being thrown in at the deep end. The fact that I always remember my own tutor and the lessons she taught me reminds me how important the role is, and the effect that you can have on your trainees can last for many years afterwards, and shape the kind of professional you decide to be.
Being a tutor keeps me on my toes because I never know when I’ll be asked a question about what or why I’m doing something in a particular way
What do you enjoy most about being a tutor and how has this benefited your career development?
Being a tutor keeps me on my toes because I never know when I’ll be asked a question about what or why I’m doing something in a particular way. I’ve been tutoring for over ten years and have dealt with all sorts of trainees. I now run tutor training workshops to help future tutors with what can feel like a daunting task, and to help them make trainees’ preregistration year both educational and fun.
What advice would you give to people interested in becoming a tutor? What qualities would they need to possess?
Tutoring is a hugely rewarding and important role. Tutors are not just teachers, but are also mentors, coaches, role models and often line managers to their trainees. This adds complexity to the role, and it can be challenging for tutors to juggle these different responsibilities.
It’s important for tutors to complete additional training to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to support their trainee’s throughout the year. Tutor training courses help give tutors knowledge of the preregistration year, as well as an explanation of the concepts and theory behind work-based assessments, how to give effective feedback and in creating a learning environment.
Tutors need to understand the importance of their role, and have excellent communication skills and to be open to whatever your trainee’s learning needs might be.
How do you hope your role may develop in the future?
I’m lucky that my role has already developed enormously over the last three years, from being the sole member of the education and training team focused on providing educational events across London, to managing a group of highly skilled individuals and delivering projects across England. I hope to continue to grow Green Light Campus into a nationally recognised provider of high quality education for all healthcare professionals.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202557
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