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Surviving your first year in practice: dos and don’ts

As you embark on your first year as a practising pharmacist, you may be faced with ethical dilemmas, medical emergencies and dispensing errors. Eamonn McArdle shares some tips for this important time.

Female pharmacists have a conversation

Source: Cultura / Rex Features

Newly registered pharmacists should seek support from colleagues and ask any questions they may have.

Your name is on the “responsible pharmacist” notice for the first time. You are now entirely accountable for the decisions you make and the services you implement. These “dos & don’ts” aim to help you survive your first year in practice.

Don’t neglect professional development

Registration is just one step along your career path. It is essential to improve your knowledge and understanding continuously to ensure you deliver the best pharmaceutical care possible. Newly registered pharmacists can assess their practice against the foundation pharmacy framework from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which sets out a series of competencies arranged into four clusters: patient and pharmaceutical care; professional practice; personal practice; and management and organisation. The Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education also offers a wide range of learning tools in a variety of formats for pharmacists from all sectors of practice.

Do record areas in which you feel your knowledge base is weak

If you discover areas of weakness in your knowledge or practice, record them. This allows you to address them later as learning points, helping you improve your practice. This learning can also form the basis of your continuing professional development entries, which you must complete to remain on the Register.

Don’t panic if you make a mistake

Although it is a cornerstone of our profession to ensure the safe supply of medicines, mistakes will inevitably occur during your career. They should never be covered up. An honest and open culture of reporting medicines errors enables us to reflect on these incidents and learn from them. We can then develop plans and protocols in an attempt to prevent such errors from occurring again. More advice about reporting medicines errors can be found on the National Patient Safety Alert website.

Do work in a methodical manner

Screening prescriptions for clinical appropriateness and performing final checks in a busy dispensary can be overwhelming initially. One simple way to ensure medicines errors are kept to a minimum is to complete the entire process for each prescription before moving on to another task. This may not always be possible so if you have been interrupted while checking a prescription, it is sensible to begin the entire process again.

Don’t shy away from delegation of tasks

It is important to remember that pharmacists have the benefit of support staff. One way to increase pressure upon yourself is failing to use and manage the staff working beneath you effectively. Non-clinical tasks, such as answering telephone calls and managing stock, can be delegated to competent support staff, allowing you to focus on other clinical tasks properly.

Don’t assume you have to make decisions alone

You might begin your career in community sector as a “second” pharmacist so you can seek advice from the more senior pharmacist or superintendent pharmacist. In hospital you will have a support network around you consisting of senior clinical pharmacists and a medicines information department. Make sure you always request support when you need it and ask any questions you may have.

Do access support from the available networks

Primary care pharmacists can seek help from local professional networks (LPNs), which provide clinical leadership and help develop the role of community pharmacy in managing healthcare for patients with long-term conditions. Hospital pharmacists can benefit from clinical rotations and time spent in medicines information. Local and regional study days also provide opportunities to garner advice from specialist clinical pharmacists. RPS Support offers guidance and information on a wide variety of subjects.

Citation: Tomorrow's Pharmacist URI: 20066287

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