by Zahra Mahomed
“I am really sorry, but unfortunately you failed the customer advisor interview”.
As an 18-year-old looking for an opportunity to work during the summer holidays before commencing my Pharmacy degree, my heart sank. The next words the interviewer said to me changed everything.
“Although you failed this interview, your passion for pharmacy really shone and was refreshing to see. Would you consider taking a Healthcare Advisor role?”
This was the start of my pharmacy career journey and I was completely unaware of how far I would go.
I accepted the role and began spending my Saturdays working in a Boots store on the healthcare counter. The interventions I had with patients and customers made me realise the impact of the community pharmacist and how rewarding it was. I observed my colleagues have consultations with patients, assessing their conditions and providing advice. I felt safe knowing I could refer patients to my pharmacist to safety net them. Being a pharmacy student, I knew that one day I would be the pharmacist that the team would refer to and this motivated me to step out of my comfort zone. I asked more questions, spent more time learning about the evidence base behind responding to symptoms and mirrored what I was learning at work within my university studies.
At the end of my degree, I stayed with Boots to do my pre-registration programme and moved to the Piccadilly Circus store in London. I was able to utilise both my healthcare and dispensing skills within my role and this helped to make the transition into working as a trainee pharmacist easier. I campaigned for Diabetes awareness, Dementia friends and Antibiotic resistance awareness during my year. My tutor, pharmacy team, Healthcare Academy Trainers and wider management team formed a support network that prepared me incredibly well for my pre-registration assessment.
I went on to become a foundation pharmacist in a busy flagship store, where I was involved with clinically challenging situations that improved my practice. I administered hundreds of travel and flu vaccinations, made life-saving interventions and became a Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist to provide community support to cancer patients. After 18 months, I moved on to become a Learning and Development designer which involved creating training content for all pharmacy colleagues.
Throughout the years, a few things stood out to me that helped me to maximise my learning opportunities.
Saying the word “yes” to opportunities even if they seemed challenging have helped to shape my career and every single opportunity became one to reflect and learn from. Asking questions and being inquisitive about the world of pharmacy paved a career path I didn’t know was possible. Networking with different people within the pharmacy world have allowed me to grow as an individual and share my passion for pharmacy. Accepting that it’s okay to find new challenges uncomfortable because that is the only place where you can grow.
I’m proud to work in a sector that has adapted and transformed so quickly within a short space of time. Pharmacists have independent prescribing clinics in-store, supported NHS 111 during the Coronavirus pandemic, set up drive-thru centres for Coronavirus testing and digital transformations have allowed pharmacists to remotely deliver patient-centred care.
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