Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Community Pharmacy: More Clinical Than You Think

By Sara Paton, Boots Pharmacist

Since I qualified, I’ve frequently heard community pharmacy described as non-clinical but over the last decade, I couldn’t have found this further from the truth. 

As a community pharmacist, as with any job, the more you invest, the more you get and the more you can shape your own role.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked in many settings. From tiny pharmacies on housing estates through to busy health centre pharmacies and those in large retail environments. Each has its own challenges and benefits, and the pharmacy location often shapes my daily tasks.

I could be supporting patients with substance misuse issues – helping them stay safe and control their condition via needle exchange or supervision services.

Or I could be advising on covert administration and managing missed or refused medication in a care services department.

Or it could be like my current role, where I have used my passion for delivering clinical pharmacy services to set up and run several private clinics, including Hair Retention, Travel, HPV, Meningitis B and Chickenpox vaccinations.

Wherever I am, there are constants in my job:

  • There is an element of training and coaching my teams.
  • There will be some level of checking prescription items.
  • There is the most satisfying aspect when I utilise the skills I gained from my clinical diploma to counsel patients. This may be through national services such as NMS, via OTC sales or with patients who walk in with questions about their medication. While we don’t currently have access to full medical records, community pharmacy is still ideally placed to make interventions and influence outcomes with patients.

Recently, I supported a patient who went from taking no medication to taking seven daily medications over a three-week period.

Whilst handing out her prescription I found that, although she had tried to manage on her own, she was completely confused about how, when and why she should use her medications, and so had only been taking one of her seven daily medicines.

I spent time explaining her medication to her and working out a dosage schedule that would work for her, taking into account specific medicines requirements to achieve optimal effect.

A few weeks later, as her condition was improving with better compliance, she was told she could reduce one of her medications. While I was writing out her reducing schedule, she mentioned she had been tempted to simply stop taking them immediately. I explained why it was important to titrate this specific medication down slowly and she agreed to follow the chart I’d written out and was soon able to stop without any side effects. Without the support I’d provided, she never would have reached this point.

Without knowledge of community pharmacy, it’s easy not to see the clinical side but it is in every interaction we have; by building local relationships and taking each opportunity you are presented with, community pharmacy will give you a varied, fulfilling, clinical career path.

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