By Lucy Higgins, member of the RPS Primary Care Pharmacy Expert Advisory Group
A GP practice pharmacist recently tweeted that he felt deflated after working with a GP who had (to his face) said that he wasn't “value for money”. This got me thinking about my own similar experiences, dealing with perceptions of others, and having to prove my “worth”.
Starting out in General Practice
Back in 2015 in Wales, where I work, GP clusters were formed, throwing open the door to working in GP practices for the first time. Many pharmacists were recruited to GP cluster roles, and I was part of this very first cohort. It turned out to be a hugely positive experience for our profession, embedding pharmacists in general practices right across Wales. Many practices now choose to employ their own pharmacists directly, and GP clusters are still recruiting to pharmacist roles - suggesting that we have proved our worth!
But in those early days, we spent a lot of time and effort selling ourselves and the role, showcasing all potential ways we could be utilised. There was a lot of talk about alleviating pressure on a burnt-out GP population, with the idea widely peddled that we would save GPs time. Yet, if the practice had a backlog of medication reviews or needed medicines management policies improving, we DIDN’T save GPs time; instead, we added to their workload and generated more queries.
Proving our worth
This inevitably caused some conflict, but as pharmacists became more confident, competent, and took on prescribing roles, the Time vs Effort see-saw tipped, but it was a tricky balancing act to master!
When the pharmacist support network on Twitter came to the support of the apparently undervalued pharmacist I was really pleased. Some with similar experiences offered a sympathetic ear, and offered solutions to tackle it, with practical tips to contact websites or networks for support (see below).
Upon applying to be a member of the Primary Care Expert Advisory Group with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, I was asked what I hoped to achieve and what aspects of pharmacy life I wanted to champion. Top of my list was this idea of “image” – not just with the public, but also our image with our fellow professionals now in primary care roles. I wanted to address the lack of understanding around what we can do, and really demonstrate our worth and our value.
We can “make every contact count”, and all of us working in primary care must be aware that every interaction with a GP (or other colleague) moulds their view of what a pharmacist can do. Because, despite their best intentions, our fellow healthcare professionals will have limited experience of pharmacists in general practice.
Encourage practices you work in to allow students of all professions to see what you do, to ask questions, and forge a stronger relationship. Spending time with a pharmacist should become mandatory in primary care rotations and modules, and we can all be ambassadors for our profession. Be the positivity in the team: put the kettle on, help your new team to get to know you – and, by extension, the profession.
What do you think the RPS could do more of to help bolster our image and perception of worth across professional sectors?
Let us know through The Primary Care EAG via the RPS.
If you’re finding it hard in primary care because of the perceptions of others, or you feel you have to constantly prove yourself, here are some suggestions:
- Try the RPS Mentoring scheme: mentors are there to listen and help you navigate particular career issues, so this route might be for you.
- Visit the Pharmacist Support Charity
- Reach out- is there a chat/teams channel or group for primary care pharmacists in your locality? Networking can really help! Keep it social, meet for a coffee!
- Read for positive influence. My go-to book recommendations almost always include How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carneigie, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. They’re often quoted as must reads- for a good reason!
- Back when I was struggling with my new primary care roles in 2015 The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steven Peters was life changing for me, both in and out of work.