Ghada Zain, MPharm.
As a “soon-to-be-pharmacist” with a part-time job in a busy pharmacy, I get asked the following question a lot:
‘Why does it take the pharmacist ages to give us our medication? How hard can it be to pick up boxes off a shelf?!’.
I have been asked this question so many times I lost count. My instinct is to respond with a ‘facepalm’ and sigh, yet somehow my professional side kicks in and I find myself explaining what really happens behind the counter at a pharmacy.
I start with asking, so what is it you think pharmacists do? (This is where they feel like there’s a trap coming up, they know they messed up, but they don’t know how). The answer is usually something along the lines of ‘pick up medicine from the shelves and give it to us’.
Dear reader, if your answer is similar to the one above, then please keep reading as I am about to drop some knowledge that will blow your mind, shake your world and change it forever (this is a bit dramatic but at least you get the point, right?).
What is a Pharmacist?
So, let’s start by clarifying some important key facts. Pharmacists DO NOT just pick up boxes off the shelves, and we don’t just “hand over” medicine. If that was all we did, we wouldn’t study for four years, train for an additional year and pass a registration exam. Yes, it takes five years to be a pharmacist but please don’t let that discourage you. It is so worth it, trust me!
A pharmacy staff member, a dispenser, is responsible for dispensing the prescription. The pharmacist is responsible for checking the medication and making sure that what the patient collects is what has been prescribed by the doctor. While doing that, they do what is known as a clinical check, they make sure that what the doctor has prescribed is correct and suitable for the patient. For example, they make sure that the doctor did not give a medication that might harm a child, cause heart problems to an elderly patient or harm a pregnant lady.
Doctors are very busy and under a lot of pressure, they are also human, so mistakes are bound to be made. However, as pharmacists, our job is to prevent that mistake from going to the patient and causing them harm. We make sure the amount given is not too much nor too little. We also tell patients how to use their medication, what to do if they have problems or side effects and when to seek urgent medical help. And yes, we do send the prescription back to the doctor to change it to a different and more suitable alternative if needed.
These are only some of the responsibilities a pharmacist holds, and those are only in community pharmacy. There are different roles a pharmacist can take on;
- they can work in drug companies – be involved in making and developing new drugs
- they can work in hospitals alongside doctors to make sure patients get the right medication, optimising their treatment plan
- pharmacists also work in academia and research
- a new developing role is working as a GP Pharmacist, where they review medications and make sure patients are comfortable and satisfied with their treatment
All these different jobs would have different roles and different responsibilities.
As you can tell, I am very passionate about pharmacy. The prospect of helping people and easing their pain is worth every effort I put into being a pharmacist. However, pharmacists don’t work for free, it not a voluntary position, and the pay is very rewarding.
As an international student coming all the way from Egypt, it was very daunting for me to move to a new country on my own. I looked into many cities, many universities, yet the only place that felt right was Bradford.
The city is beautiful, the people are friendly and nice, I felt safe and welcomed everywhere I went. However, I have to admit my favourite thing about Bradford is the food – the food is amazing!
The University of Bradford offers a unique pharmacy program which was one of the key factors in choosing to come to Bradford. We are taught through Team-Based Learning (TBL), which helps us learn better and work on our confidence, communication, team-working and problem-solving skills, to make us into the best healthcare professionals we can be.
It also offers a 5-year programme with two separate six-month periods of pre-registration within the course, giving us the opportunity to experience two different aspects of pharmacy practice (usually hospital and community practice), thereby enhancing our learning outcomes. The staff are very helpful, very cooperative and very understanding. They go the extra mile to make sure you are well supported and able to reach your full potential.
Going to university is an amazing experience. It changes your life forever and allows you to harness different skills that will be essential for both your personal life and your career.
For me, going to the University of Bradford changed my perspective on life, helped me be the person I am today, allowed me to get involved, helped me explore life, meet great people and make friends for life.
This is Bradford, this is where I discovered myself. This is where I unlocked my hidden potential.