One day, whilst I was waiting for a prescription, I thought that working in a pharmacy could be interesting


I have had asthma and allergies for as long as I can remember, so going to pick up a prescription has just been the norm for me… although I never did understand why it took so long to, “just stick a label on a box”.

Fast forward a few years and I am a little bit tired of my call centre job and looking for a new challenge and something more career based. One day, whilst I was waiting for a prescription, I thought that working in a pharmacy could be interesting so I looked into what it took to work in a pharmacy.
After scrolling the internet, I decided it looked like something I would enjoy and realised that there were lots of different avenues to progress, and there was a lot more to pharmacy than people realise; I started job hunting.

Discovering Derriford

I found one in Derriford so I decided to apply. I was shortlisted and invited to an interview!
Now, when it came to the day of the interview I had a serious case of foot in mouth and when asked why I would like to work in pharmacy I responded with ‘well… I am on a lot of drugs’ and then suddenly realised what I had just said so frantically tried to back track and explain it wasn’t anything bad, I was just on inhalers and allergy tablets galore… somehow they saw the funny side and I got the job!
When I started I soon learnt that it wasn’t just a case of sticking a label on the box and letting the patient go on their merry way; every minute it takes from when we receive a prescription until they have their bag of medication is spent checking that all of the correct policies and processes are followed to ensure patient safety during the different stages which include receiving the prescription, clinical screening, dispensing – labelling the items, dispensing – assembling the items and having a final check.

I started off as an ATO (Assistant Technical Officer) and after training in different areas, I had a whole range of different duties which included working in the dispensary; dealing with the labelling and dispensing of medication for our TTAs (Discharge ‘to take away’ prescriptions) and in-patients, working in distribution where we issue and assemble stock to all of the wards in the hospital as well as local community hospitals, topping up wards – ensuring the wards had the correct stock levels and that everything was kept securely and is in date.

I was also required to ‘run’ (not actual running, thankfully!) to collect charts and medication from the wards then deliver it when ready – this was probably the hardest part, especially in the summer as we would often do up to 12 miles of walking up and down stairs and all over the hospital in half-a-day.
I had to cover reception, receiving in prescriptions, charts and dealing with general queries, I needed to fill up the liquid nitrogen canisters, clean leeches – yes we still use them and more regularly than you’d realise. I also needed to carry out general housekeeping such as restocking our supplies of boxes and bottles, cleaning and carrying out stock and date checks.

Moving on, but still in the Trust

After I had been here for a year, a position came up to carry out a two-year course to gain the qualifications required to become a pharmacy technician.

I applied and was fortunate enough to get the position – this was the real start of my career. The course was hard for me as I have been out of education for 15 or so years, and I had to get used to writing long assignments, going away to college for week long blocks to attend college lessons and live in student halls.

Trying to do two qualifications whilst working fulltime, keeping the house in an acceptable condition and looking after my man-child had its moments where I was left wondering if I’d made the right choice or not!

But I have finished now and am waiting to start my new position as a registered pharmacy technician in the coming weeks and looking forward to where I will end up and which path I will go down next.
I really enjoy working in the pharmacy as the day is varied and there is always something new to learn, we are constantly busy, even on days when its quiet (although we never say the “Q” word) there is always something to do to keep us occupied.


Carly is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Pharmacy, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.

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