Most pharmacists recognise the important role that education and training had in their careers, but many have long since forgotten what it is like to be a pharmacy graduate undertaking the first steps towards a successful career in the profession.
My career started at the tender age of 17 years as a Saturday boy at a local independent pharmacy. I had no real interest in pharmacy at that stage and was working, like most teenagers, to make money.
But, during that time, I encountered a locum pharmacist who persuaded me to consider a career in pharmacy. My major interest at the time was mathematics, but when I looked further into pharmacy I was persuaded to enter for a pharmacy degree at the School of Pharmacy, University of London — “The Square”.
I undertook summer work placements in both community and hospital pharmacy and gained a preregistration training place at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals. My intention at the time was to complete my preregistration training and then move to community pharmacy, like all my friends.
I ended up staying at the hospital and my first real pharmacist post was as a resident pharmacist at the Guy’s hospital site. I undertook a rotational programme and completed a certificate in pharmacy practice in my first year. I stayed for 18 months before taking up a position as a prescribing adviser for the then Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority.
This position was short-term and, while looking for permanent posts, I returned to Guy’s as a specialist oncology pharmacist. I then moved from this position to a dispensary and clinical-based post.
It was in this post that I was first exposed to training others and became responsible for the training of preregistration students in the dispensary, among my other roles.
My clinical commitments at the time included general medicine and then the intensive care unit, both of which I enjoyed tremendously. Although I really enjoyed this clinical aspect of my job I did not think that it would become a career path for me.
I left this position at the time the trust was being reconfigured and enrolled on a full-time MSc programme in clinical pharmacy at The Square. Between starting the course and leaving Guy’s, I did locums in hospital pharmacy and worked in a number of hospitals in London and Kent.
I was already doing locums on and off in community pharmacy at the weekends and continued this with a fixed weekend commitment in a local independent pharmacy owned by a university classmate.
The MSc course was incredibly intense and I learnt a lot and found what I wanted to do with a career in pharmacy. My colleagues on the course and some of my lecturers inspired me into wanting to break from the mould of being just another pharmacist.
A passion for preregistration training
As the course was coming to an end, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a post looking after preregistration training at Guy’s and St Thomas’. The opportunity to work with Andy Kostrzewski, Alice Conway and Tony West was one that I was never going to turn down; Alice and Tony had been my tutors when I was a preregistration trainee.
I am still in this area and my current post title is principal pharmacist lead for education and development. Although many people will associate me with preregistration training, my responsibilities have expanded.
My passion remains preregistration training and I manage what I consider to be one of the better programmes where we have preregistration students undertaking a variety of programmes including the Bradford University sandwich course, industrial placements with Pfizer and novel programmes in primary care and paediatrics.
Our objective is to produce pharmacists who are able to work in any sector of the pharmacy profession.
Outside preregistration training, I am a placement tutor with The Square’s international MSc programme, where I tutor up to four students from around the world; they all have different educational and cultural backgrounds, which makes tutoring them an interesting challenge. I am one of the leads for the learning and teaching module at The Square and I am a tutor for the diploma in pharmacy practice. I am also an academic facilitator for the diploma in general pharmacy practice, where I run action learning sets for the first-year practitioners.
Elements of management
On the management side, I jointly deputise for Andy Kostrzewski in managing the pharmacy education and development team with Tess Fenn, a technician colleague. We look after the training budget, mandatory training and study leave requests as well as leading on the continuing professional development requirements.
I attend senior manager meetings in the department as a representative for the education team. I also have clinical commitments, which include being responsible for a clinical area and undertaking consultant-led, acute medical ward rounds.
I have completed an educational qualification, PGCE (PCET), and an MA in management studies, both from the University of Greenwich. I am an NVQ D32/33 workplace assessor and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Although, like most hospital pharmacists, I am busy in my job, I believe it is important to support junior members of the pharmacy family actively, whether they are pharmacists, pharmacy technicians or preregistration trainees.
The important thing for me is to be able to imagine myself in their position and see the world from their eyes as well as having a senior
Aamer Safdar is principal pharmacist lead for education and development at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust