Royal Pharmaceutical Society

From nurse to pharmacist: my dual career

By Patricia Ojo, member of the RPS Community Pharmacy Expert Advisory Group

I started my pharmacy journey differently to most by first becoming a nurse.

I studied nursing at the University of Greenwich in 1991 and decided I wanted to become a pharmacist in the first year! I finished my nursing course and after four months in General Surgery, was even more adamant pharmacy was the career for me.

I embarked on a pharmacy course at Brighton University in 1994. Both of my parents were nurses, and anything healthcare-related has always felt very logical to me.  My father later became a medical rep for pharmaceutical companies, so I grew up going into the office surrounded by medicine wholesaling and retailing.

Understanding both angles
I moved onto the pharmacy degree, and subsequently my career, with a lot more confidence than colleagues that had come straight from school because of my experience from the nursing course. It’s been useful ever since. I was able to use what I had learnt in practice and I understood why things are done a certain way – so my challenge was more about learning how medicines worked and how they were made. I never thought it was unusual to study both nursing and pharmacy, all I knew was that it is what I wanted to do. I came across another two students who were also transferring from nursing to pharmacy, and I’m still in touch with one of them.

Blended roles

In hospital pharmacy, I enjoyed seeing different people all the time and being around the nurses. Years on, I have found that roles are becoming blended in community pharmacy and in general practice. Nursing has become more and more useful for me, including in day-to-day hands-on work, such as visiting patients at home.

I also completed an independent prescribing course and following that missed renewing my nursing registration. I took a sabbatical and went back to University of Greenwich and got my registration back. This enabled me to go into general practice and work both as a nurse and a pharmacist. At one point I was working as a Senior Clinical Pharmacist four days-a-week, as well as a Practice Nurse Lead one day a week, at a GP surgery. The two things have ended up blending formally without me planning it that way! I loved that experience.

Shape your own career

I have always decided what I want to do, and I have always looked for new experiences; whether that has been studying, working in community pharmacy, or working as a Practice Nurse Lead, and now running my own pharmacy. I have tried to positively encourage anyone who is coming behind me in the profession, because for me it’s been a great journey.

We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group.