Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Supporting trainee wellbeing: A new role for pharmacists

portrait image of Farzana MohammedBy Farzana Mohammed, Pharmacist Clinical Case Manager for Professional Support and Wellbeing service in NHS England (NHSE), Workforce Training and Education (WTE), East of England

Health service provision has continued to evolve and with patient care and wellbeing taking centre stage, it’s easy to overlook the wellbeing of the dedicated pharmacists contributing to patient care services. In the ever-evolving landscape of the pharmacy profession, the wellbeing of pharmacists is essential and so is the foundation upon which skills required to deliver quality patient care is built.

Trainee pharmacists undertake rigorous training and transition into the training year may bring unique challenges that may require focused attention and support. Recognising these challenges led me to accept a new role working as part of the Professional Support and Wellbeing Service (PSW) in NHSE WTE East of England. I hope that by sharing my experience you may want to consider supporting the wellbeing of the next generation of pharmacists.

Empowering pharmacists as catalysts for trainee wellbeing and support

During my time as a clinical fellow at Health Education England (HEE) Pharmacy South, I undertook a fellowship project to understand the lived experience of the trainee pharmacy workforce, exploring themes such as discrimination, inclusion, wellbeing, and representation. The findings highlighted the need for accessible counselling services and culturally appropriate wellbeing services. The project explored the lived experience of Black and Ethnic Minority pharmacy trainees during their *pre-registration training program.

Key findings from the 2021/2022 cohort surveyed highlighted the following:
  • 23% acknowledged their wellbeing was fully supported during the training programme
  • 10% used a counselling service
  • 75% highlighted the lack of availability of a culturally appropriate wellbeing service

(*pre-registration includes trainee pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacy technicians (PTPTs) 2020-2022)

This research finding was my inspiration to accept this clinical case manager role. The (PSW) provides services to doctors, dentists and pharmacists in training within the East of England. Trainee pharmacists that meet the service provision criteria can access support through self-referral or referral by their educational supervisor. The referral is reviewed by a clinical case manager and discussed with the trainee to reach an agreed course of action.

Providing vital support for trainees' wellbeing and career development

As a pharmacist clinical case manager, I can offer confidential and non-judgmental personal support to trainees during difficult times and give them an opportunity to reflect on work-life balance. I provide a listening ear, guidance, and advice to help doctors in training and trainee pharmacists cope with personal and professional challenges and support career development during their training programme

It is imperative that we ensure trainees have access to relevant tools, support mechanisms and resources that address mental health, stress management, resilience, and a work-life balance. I encourage self-care practices that provide compassionate, individualised care with resources such as psychological support from external providers to help colleagues prioritise their well-being. My support can also include signposting to online resources and workshops which are open to our regional trainees. These sessions may cover areas such as communication skills, leadership, balancing training and wellbeing, imposter syndrome and exam support including stress reduction techniques. I also facilitate workshops for trainees and educational supervisors providing an overview of Microaggressions, practical strategies to respond and support mechanisms available.

Closing a case knowing you made a difference is an extremely rewarding experience and one that I would recommend to anyone who has a desire to help future pharmacists and doctors manage the transition from university to employment, and cope with the personal and professional challenges they face to deliver care to patients. PSW have produced an Impact Infographic with the support of their communications team to promote the service.

Looking to the future

My aim in this role is to continue to learn about the different training programs and examination timelines to support all trainees referred to me through the PSW service. You are not alone and this offer of support gives trainee pharmacists the chance to speak in confidence to another pharmacist. I will listen with empathy and offer a safe, non-judgemental space to talk through concerns and help to find a way forward.

I want to increase the number of eligible pharmacy trainees accessing PSW support at the earliest opportunity or whenever they need it in their foundation training journey. This is being done by ensuring designated supervisors and educational leads in both provider organisations and NHSE WTE, promote this service to their trainee pharmacists undertaking the NHSE East of England WTE foundation training programme at induction and at critical points during the year.

My Vision for the future involves regional collaboration between PSW and national offers of mental health and wellbeing support from stakeholders such as Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), pharmacist support, General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), Chief Pharmaceutical Officers Team (CPhO) and Inclusive Pharmacy Practice Delivery plan (IPP), Pharmacy Schools Council (PSC) and British Pharmaceutical Students Association (BPSA). There is scope to work towards ensuring there is a culturally appropriate wellbeing service for the pharmacy workforce and to share the lessons learnt from the PSW support provided to trainees in NHSE East of England. This role has given me a platform to start these conversations and raise awareness about trainee mental health and wellbeing.

Find out more on the Professional Support and Wellbeing service in NHSE WTE East of England.

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