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How a teacher-practitioner in technical services helps link science and practice

Combining hospital quality assurance and aseptic services work with teaching pharmacy students provides the perfect blend of theory and practice, Hannah Kitching tells Sue Laird

By Sue Laird

Combining hospital quality assurance and aseptic services work with Hannah Kitchingteaching pharmacy students provides the perfect blend of theory and practice, Hannah Kitching tells Sue Laird

I spend half my time working in technical services in a hospital pharmacy and the other half teaching pharmacy students about these aspects of pharmacy. This provides a perfect link for students between science and practice.

In my hospital role I am based in the quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) department at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. I do not have a great deal of direct clinical contact with patients, but I need to know how things work on the wards, because I advise the trust on a range of projects, including how to deal with unlicensed medicines; my previous clinical experience helps with this.

Most trusts have an aseptic unit that is an unlicensed patient service. But one unit at Leeds holds a manufacturer’s licence from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

A key part of my role relates to the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH), including developing and updating trust guidelines on how to handle chemicals and drugs.

I am mostly based at the trust’s manufacturing unit and am one of six officers who can release drugs from the production unit. Our role is primarily quality control. My work in the aseptic unit is mainly releasing products made for individual patients.

As part of my QA/QC role I offer advice on a number of situations. For example, I was recently asked to assess the possibility of administering a product by mouth rather than by injection for a child. I have to decide whether that is feasible and safe.

We may also decide whether an expiry date can be extended safely. Even if a medicine is too unstable for the date to be extended a good pharmacist will think laterally. If, for example, a patient has to travel a long way to receive the medicine each week (due to the short expiry) the pharmacist could find another trust closer to the patient’s home that can supply the medicine. This is a key part of the pharmacists’ role.

In the QA/QC department we operate a rigorous checking system on each drug we use. If the medicine is unlicensed we undertake thorough checks.
Another important responsibility is to deliver health and safety training for department managers across the trust.

University work

Aseptics, good manufacturing practice and quality control are not normally taught in detail on university MPharm courses and certainly not the practical techniques used in the workplace. But the knowledge and understanding of these areas is relevant to all pharmacists. My joint post with the University of Bradford was developed to tackle this deficiency.
The university has built a new aseptic laboratory where students learn about microbiological monitoring and the aseptic preparation of drugs.

They also learn practical skills and work with the type of aseptic equipment that is used in practice. I have designed a new optional module to teach this knowledge and these skills to those students specifically interested in this area. The first cohort is half way through this module.

I have also developed an optional module for our postgraduate MSc and diploma pharmacists that covers these areas in more detail.
We are designing the course in a way that tries to marry theory and practice. Many stakeholders, including the hospital, are involved in steering the MPharm curriculum towards a more integrated approach. We aim to show students how the academic teaching relates to practice, such as why it matters that you check stability of medicines before giving them to patients.

I am theme leader of the “Molecules to systems” part of the course, which is introduced as a full module in year 1, where students learn the basics. The theme continues from year 1 to year 4, enabling students to consolidate the knowledge they gained in the year 1 module over the course of their degree.

My practical experience enables me to ensure that we are teaching up-to-date practice and key skills that are required in the workplace. I am able to show students how the scientific principles they are learning at university are applied in practice.

My aspiration at school was to work in medicine. Therefore I took part-time jobs in community pharmacy from the age of 16 to gain experience. When my summer holiday community placement fell through in my second year at university I ended up in a hospital placement at Hull Royal Infirmary, where I gained my first experience in an aseptic unit. After that I did a holiday placement in the hospital every year.

I did a residency in Leeds, which was hard work, but taught me a lot. Then I took on the role of specialist clinical pharmacist (surgery), which was a split between the clinical team and the aseptic unit. In this post I was given opportunities to teach staff, and this sparked my interest in a professional teaching role.

People tend not to consider a career in an aseptic unit because they think there is no patient contact, but there is. I often have to explain something to a patient. And there are patients at the end of everything I do, whether I meet them or not.

I love my job and am sometimes puzzled as to why it is difficult to fill posts. I think many pharmacy students are not aware of this side of pharmacy and how fascinating it is.

My job requires knowledge of pharmacy, chemistry, microbiology and pharmaceutics. That could be as basic as knowing whether a drug contains a preservative or not. My clinical background helps me understand where the science sits in relation to the clinical practice. This is a great role that integrates science and practice, enabling me to give students examples of why and how microbiology applies. 

Hannah Kitching

January 2011 to present Teacher practitioner at the University of Bradford/ advanced pharmacist (education and training) at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

2009–11 Specialist clinical pharmacist (surgery) at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

2007–09 Resident pharmacist, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11100506

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