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Our weekly virtual department ‘peer reviews’ are supporting professional development and keeping up morale

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinical pharmacy department at Glasgow Royal Infirmary — a large teaching hospital — in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, undertook weekly educational sessions. We called these informal, mainly discussion-based sessions ‘peer review’.

But in March 2020, owing to the pandemic, peer review was temporarily suspended. This coincided with the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) postponement of revalidation submissions, owing to the new challenges for, and pressures on, the pharmacy sector.

However, as a part of a large teaching hospital, our department understood the importance of continuing to support frontline pharmacists in their professional development during this challenging time. To this end, in August 2020 I led on reinstating peer review in a virtual format through the virtual communication platform Microsoft Teams (to comply with social distancing guidance).

The primary aim of the sessions was to support professional development, but we acknowledged that the departmental peer review was also beneficial in enhancing staff morale and motivation, as well as reducing professional isolation.

Our peer review sessions were revitalised — based on staff suggestions — with a shift towards formal teaching, and staff put forward topics that would tackle their unmet learning needs, such as antimicrobials, blood-borne viruses, medicines management, mental health and renal care.

The new format presents a more structured learning environment, and staff can access recordings and files to use at a later time if they’re unable to attend. And, owing to the virtual format, staff are now easily able to present remotely from across the health board; previously, presenting took place only in person. This has meant that two additional small hospital sites are able to join us. Traditionally, these staff members working off-site would not have had an established peer review for education and development.

The delivery format of the sessions has changed significantly, so I sought formal feedback by sending a short survey to the 76 staff members involved in the sessions. The feedback was very positive: respondents were either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘extremely satisfied’. The majority wished for peer review to continue virtually as it was easy to access and catch up with recordings. However, some staff were frustrated by technical difficulties. There was also a considerable preference to see a mixture of presentations and peer discussions, to encourage more interactivity and discourse.

I will continue to deliver peer review via a virtual platform, and we’ll also introduce discussion-based sessions, based on the feedback received. This will mean that the sessions are in line with the GPhC’s revalidation format, which will facilitate reflection on learning and practice. As I chair the sessions, I’ll be mindful of creating a safe learning environment so that everyone, particularly juniors, can feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in discussion.

Gemma Kaur, clinical pharmacist, Glasgow Infirmary, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208637

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