Posted by: Anas Hassan27 NOV 2013
I have many friends or fellow comrades who are hospital pharmacists. It’s just that I never get the chance to speak to them as often as I would have wished. It really does feel like sometimes that there is a world of difference between the areas of community and hospital pharmacy when it comes to the different kind of tasks expected to be carried out, the style of pharmacy practice and the different types of cases that are dealt with.
And because of my lack of experience in the hospital sector, I couldn’t possibly make a series of extensive comments about working in a hospital. Although I have made a few visits to various hospitals during my time at university and beyond, whether it’s been on an afternoon placement on the wards or just a morning visit to see a hospital pharmacy in action, my horizons has it’s severe limitations on this one.
But what I can say is that community and hospital pharmacy are definitely nowhere near the same. Whilst community pharmacy is a fast paced, hands on and entrepreneurial sector to work in it, arguably, isn’t as clinical as hospital pharmacy.
Community pharmacists don’t have access to patient notes nor key information about the patient’s overall care in other healthcare settings. Prescriptions come in thick and fast and with such little time to contemplate the whole context of the patient’s overall care (beyond the community pharmacy), you have to ensure that you use all the power and autonomy you have at your immediate disposal to give the patient the best possible care.
Whilst, on the other hand, hospital pharmacists rely on more of the knowledge picked up during the modules at university on the clinical elements of pharmacy, whether that is preparing sterile products, interpreting biochemistry values and medical notes or preparing intravenous medicines.
Yet the horizon for pharmacists in community could all change next decade in Scotland if the Scottish Government’s proposed plans (Prescription For Excellence) for pharmacy come into effect, meaning that more opportunity of a clinical approach will become necessary.
I have blogged on here in the past about my disappointment at the lack of networking opportunities that exist to talk with fellow pharmacists in other areas of work and even between other community pharmacists. The stress, strain and fast paced reality of modern life inhibits many chances for fellow pharmacists from all sectors of work to talk to one another, in real life, face to face. Being a pharmacist in practice may be isolating, but we are all human after all. We do need each other in some way or another, despite the stress and strain of modern day working life.
But on another issue, another question beckons (and another one of my extensive academical observations). How easy, or difficult, is it to really make the jump between both sectors? I get all kinds of responses on this very question, but the most popular answer I tend to hear ringing through my ears in conversation is it is apparently more difficult to jump to hospital pharmacy from community pharmacy then it is for a hospital pharmacist to move into community.
When I was in the early days of my career as a registered pharmacist, I saw this difficulty screaming at me first hand. Knocked back at every opportunity to achieve any form of work in a hospital pharmacy, it became apparent to me that community pharmacy was here to stay in my immediate pharmacy career, once the opportunity to finally get on the employment ladder came (I’ve blogged about my first twelve months in a previous time).
Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely blessed that I currently practise in a Scottish nation which is undisputedly world class for a community pharmacist to practise their profession.
But what concerns me in general is that those who want to take a chance at a stint in a hospital pharmacy and who have predominantly community pharmacy or other forms of pharmacy experience (such as industrial pharmacy for instance) are somehow at an immediate disadvantage. When I was at university, opportunities were lacking in terms of getting extensive hospital pharmacy experience. And when vacancies eventually come up for hospital pharmacists, overwhelmingly, the demand exceeds the supply, especially in today’s economic environment. The lack of past experience in a hospital pharmacy setting doesn’t help.
And even for some pharmacists with more hospital pharmacy experience than others, there is literally next to no chance of sealing a permanent job. Also, this isn’t necessarily an issue for hospital pharmacy as far as being overwhelmed with applicants is concerned. Other areas, like community pharmacy, see such overwhelming pressures for jobs exist too.
Now I don’t think anybody is to blame for all this, because I suggest that the lack of opporunity is down to, possibly, current pressures on funding on parts of the NHS. Scotland, like the rest of the UK, is not immune to this and spending priorities have had to be revamped in some areas. It can only be that so many pharmacists can be hired in the NHS and funding can only go as far as it can, especially in today’s economic environment. However, it’s also important to note that Audit Scotland has in recent times given credit to Scotland’s health authorities for their financial performance in the last year.
What would intrigue me more than anything is how pharmacists in hospital are coping with all the pressures that currently exist within the NHS (hospital pharmacists, I’m going to need you to help me out so please comment).
But, overall, let’s face it. We are all pharmacists, community or hospital. Technically, we all do the same job. Agreed?
From BBC News, “NHS needs long-term spending focus, says Audit Scotland” - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-24463121