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Transitioning from community pharmacy to primary care

In our latest Member Voice article, Clinical Pharmacist and PDA South East Regional Committee Member, Abimbola Musa, shares the challenges she faced and how she has overcome them since moving from community pharmacy to primary care.

Thu 31st March 2022 The PDA

I am currently a Clinical Pharmacist working in a PCN role in London across two surgeries. I decided to write this article to highlight my personal experiences of the pitfalls of landing in certain practices and the joys of arriving in others.

Starting out as a community pharmacist

My journey began in community pharmacy, in one of the most established, well-known and possibly the oldest high street pharmacy chains. I had to learn very quickly as there was a heavy workload and the store was always short-staffed.

I knew quite early on that this particular type of environment was not the best fit for me and I felt that I would not thrive professionally as I would have wanted to, so after surviving my pre-reg year there, I moved on to locum and full-time work in supermarket chains, where I stayed for the formative years of my pharmacy career.

Similar to many of my pharmacy colleagues, I felt like my community career plateaued, as there was limited scope for progression beyond a Pharmacy Manager. I also felt an element of desperation to move elsewhere, so I applied for a number of roles both directly related to pharmacy, for example, primary care in the form of GP practice, as well as other roles unrelated to pharmacy.

Transitioning into primary care

This application process was quite daunting as I was often going into new spaces with limited knowledge of what the jobs would entail day to day, as there are often vague and technical job specifications that are not so easy to decipher if you’re inexperienced. I had some pharmacy colleagues who had moved into primary care and they were incredibly helpful and encouraged me to make the move.

I had several interviews and was knocked back multiple times, so when I was finally offered a position I took it gladly, even though it was offered with part-time hours at a significantly lower pay rate compared to my community pharmacy salary.  I tried to negotiate but was told that the salary was fixed, as I was initially part of a pilot scheme.

I started the job with trepidation and felt very anxious sitting at my computer, in an office full of people, all making calls at the same time and not being quite sure what I should be doing. I received some documentation written by the practice lead and some follow-up emails regarding practice protocol, but there was no structured induction.

“I was incredibly lucky as I had other senior pharmacists who were more than happy to show me the way, pulling me to the side and encouraging me to shadow – without them, I most likely would have left the role much sooner.”

Fortunately, I settled into the role and learned quickly that I needed to assert myself and take on responsibilities that I now understood from the previously vague and technical job description and specification, but even with this assertion, the workload was beyond manageable and very admin-heavy, which left little time to explore learning opportunities or forward plan for clinics and other responsibilities within my scope of practice that I felt would really benefit the practice.  Furthermore, I was then enrolled on the pathway which made an already difficult workload incredibly unmanageable.

I also realised that certain tasks in the practice felt rushed and I wanted to complete all tasks and activities efficiently, effectively and to the highest standard.  With this in mind, I believed with the experience gained, there might be value in looking at other practices, so I bit the bullet and applied elsewhere. I was successful with my application and accepted the offer – this time I was assertive, asked the right questions at the right time, and negotiated contract terms where I felt the need to.

Again, I started the job with trepidation, but to my surprise, it was met with structure, learning plans, room and time for appraisal, and overall, the opportunity to learn in a supported environment. I believe my experience is not unique to community pharmacists joining primary care and hope that by working with the PDA, we can put structures in place that will help others make a smooth transition to primary care.

By Abimbola Musa, Clinical Pharmacist and PDA South East Regional Committee Member

Get involved

  • Download the PDA ‘GP Pharmacist Flyer’ here
  • Download the ‘Advice and FAQs for prescribing and non-prescribing pharmacists in primary care’ here
  • Sessions on ‘Areas of support for primary care pharmacists’ can be booked here 

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