In October 2020, Humayra Akther, 27, joined John Taylor Hospice’s Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) as a clinical pharmacist.
In celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Humayra shares an insight into her role, how she trained to become a clinical pharmacist, what she enjoys most about her job, and why she would recommend pharmacy as a career.
Q: How would you explain your role at John Taylor Hospice?
A: My role at JTH is a clinical pharmacist which means I am responsible for applying my knowledge around the scientific principles of medicines, their physiological impact and how we can use them as treatment options for our patients. This as well as working as part of a multi-disciplinary team with other healthcare professionals ensures that our patients receive the most effective treatment to manage their conditions and help improve their quality of life.
Q: Is there such a thing as a ‘typical day’ for you?
A: My work can vary from day to day but tends to start with getting a handover from the nurses who tell us how each patient has been overnight and any concerns they want me to look into. I then join the multi-disciplinary ward round where we review every patient on the Inpatient Unit and discuss their current treatment plan with them. During these ward rounds I will highlight any medication related issues, advise and make recommendations to the team. This involves conducting an individualised clinical assessment of patient’s drug charts to identify medication issues and ensure we are using medicines effectively.
The latter part of my day involves ‘behind the scenes’ work such as policy writing, implementing, reviewing and auditing medicines management and medicines safety processes, education and training and handling medicines information queries.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working at John Taylor Hospice?
A: The part of my job that I enjoy the most is being able to provide supportive medication treatment to our patients, improving their quality of life which ensures that every valuable day they have, they can spend doing what is really important to them.
Q: What do you find challenging?
A: No matter how many patients I look after, I underestimate how attached I can become to our patients, so their passing can be difficult. However, knowing that I have helped them in those precious moments brings some comfort.
Q: What qualifications do you need to be a pharmacist?
A: To become a pharmacist you need to complete a four year Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) degree accredited by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). This is followed be a one year pre-registration training placement and passing the GPhC registration assessment at the end.
Q: Tell us a bit about your education and training.
A: As well as the above, I have completed a two year post-graduate diploma in clinical pharmacy practice. My training has predominantly been in hospital and I’ve had training and experience in near enough most clinical specialities, from cardiology to paediatrics. Prior to starting at John Taylor Hospice, I built up my palliative care knowledge and experience working in a different hospice in the West Midlands for several years. I’ve also had some experience working in primary care which included working in GP practices as part of the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and working as part of an intermediate care team.
Q: What inspired you to become a pharmacist?
A: From a young age I’ve always enjoyed maths and science, especially chemistry and biology which was further influenced by my mother’s passion for the subjects. During college, studying organic chemistry piqued my interest in medicines formulation and how this has been used throughout history to treat many conditions. Placement opportunities in hospital affirmed that I wanted to be on the front-line working with others to bring these treatment options to patients first hand. Pharmacy was the ideal career path in order for me to use both my science interest and that of working closely with patients.
Q: Is pharmacy a varied field?
A: Yes, pharmacy is extremely varied – even I’m still discovering new roles.
The main areas are community, hospital, pharmaceutical industry, education and primary care. The roles pharmacists can be in are vast and varied, especially as the Pharmacy Masters itself has a strong scientific foundation allowing pharmacists to go into non-traditional roles.
Q: What do people picture when you tell them you’re a pharmacist, and how is the reality different?
A: When I tell people I’m a pharmacist, they imagine me working behind the counter in a community pharmacy counting tablets into a bottle and sticking labels onto medicine boxes. When in reality I’m providing expert medical advice to doctors, preventing harm and improving outcomes for patients.
Q: Would you recommend pharmacy as a career?
A: I would recommend pharmacy to anybody with an interest in maths and science and want to work in a patient-facing environment.
Q: What would you say are essential skills for a pharmacist?
A: Excellent communication skills are a must, especially as you’ll be interacting with a wide range of people. Interpersonal skills and the ability to empathise also go hand in hand. Other vital skills include attention to detail, problem solving skills and the ability to work as part of a team.