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My name is Lesley, and I work as a pharmacy technician at University Hospitals Plymouth.
When you work in the NHS the job is ever-changing. Being part of the pharmacy family, we integrate with these changes to always improve systems of work and processes that lead to better patient centred care.
My technician career has spanned over 30 years and even now, the role is evolving. In the last year alone the pharmacy technician role has changed to a two year apprenticeship with college providers.
Pharmacy technicians, in the not so distanced past were not recognised by the General Pharmaceutical Society. That has all changed and we are now registered professionals. I would highly recommend anyone seeking a career in the NHS to have a look at the challenging varied and exciting role of pharmacy technician. As a Mum and Grandma (my daughter is a pharmacy technician) I would endorse anyone seeking a fulfilling career in healthcare to look at pharmacy services.
Previous to this I worked as an auxiliary nurse and as a physio aid at St Peters Hospital in Surrey. On relocating to Plymouth I decided to pursue a change of career. I still wanted to be involved in healthcare so I researched other healthcare roles. Looking at all these exciting roles, the job of a trainee pharmacy technician appealed to me. I was under no illusions and knew that studying to be a technician would be challenging, as I also had a young family at the time.
I successfully applied for a trainee technician job in a retail community pharmacy. This period of learning consisted of in-house training over three years. The skills I learned were first as a counter assistant, which included labelling and dispensing prescription medicines, over the counter sales and consultation skills. I found the patient contact very rewarding; helping and advising patients with their medication regimes (within my capabilities and professional boundaries).
Having completed my counter assistant’s course and gaining experience, I progressed to trainee technician. Part of this role is to train to check and sign-off dispensed prescriptions. I was aware that training to be the person responsible for signing off patients medications before they left the pharmacy was a massive responsibility. These were skills that I embraced. I developed not only as a pharmacy technician but also as a person. I get a lot of job satisfaction that has stayed with me throughout my career processing people’s medications.
Although working in the community pharmacy was a brilliant job, I wanted to seek other opportunities and skills that pharmacy technicians could have in their portfolio. These opportunities were predominately hospital based. I then made a career decision to move from retail to hospital services. Once again this was a decision that was not easy for me to make as my family were still quite young and moving into the hospital environment taking on new skills and challenges once again was something I wanted to embrace.
My decision was rewarded as I took on new roles such as medicines management controlled drugs processes; I also trained as an inanimate keyworker assessor.
Other responsibilities that I have been involved in are taking our pharmacy services from a centralised system to ward based. This involved training staff to work on the wards which I had vast experience from my medicines management role.
Pharmacy is a fast-paced ever-changing environment and no two days are ever the same. This keeps the role interesting and fulfilling as we are constantly learning new skills. I enjoy being a Pharmacy Technician and feel we have a positive impact on patient care by providing an efficient service and enabling a smooth transition back into the primary care setting.
I have been a Pharmacy Technician for around three years but have worked in pharmacy for over 10 years.
I started my journey in community pharmacy and made the transition into hospital pharmacy 18 months ago to broaden my skill set. The two year pharmacy technician course is not the end of the training process as we are continually learning every day and there are several further courses available for our personal development. I completed the Accuracy Checking course whilst still in community pharmacy enabling me to relieve the pressure on the pharmacist(s) by conducting the final accuracy check on prescriptions before they leave the pharmacy department.
Since joining the amazing team at Derriford I have also enrolled onto the Medicines Optimisation course which enables me to spend time on the wards with the patients ensuring any medication they have brought into hospital is suitable for use and facilitating inpatient supply requests and preparation of TTAs. I am also able to be part of the Medicines Reconciliation process which ensures patients are prescribed all of their regular medication prior to admission whilst they are a hospital inpatient. Although the bulk of my day consists of spending time on the wards fulfilling my Medicines Optimisation role and labelling, dispensing and accuracy checking prescriptions there are several other aspects to my role.
I could be involved in the dispensing of specialist hospital only medication that requires specific monitoring, such as clozapine or in stock management to ensure stock levels are correct in order to fulfil requests in a timely manner. I may also spend time in the controlled drugs room dispensing medications that have the potential for abuse and thus specific legal requirements for dispensing. I also contribute to the dispensing of medication for specific outpatient clinics such as Dermatology, REI and Neurology.
Rez Rodgers, Vice Chair of the University Hospital Plymouth BAME Network, pens a blog about the influence of overseas workers on the beginnings of the NHS…
The post-war labour minister Aneurin Bevin believed that society should collectively contribute to a healthcare system with equal opportunity and availability to all, and thus the foundation of the Nation Health Service was born in July 1948. However, due to the impact of World War I and II on the British economy, medical professionals were hard to recruit; men returning from the war did not want to fulfil a job requiring long working hours and women, after performing men’s jobs whilst at war, discovered more career opportunities and developments outside of the traditional marriage and domestic roles.
After World War II had left the British economy depleted, the government advertised to 16 of the then Commonwealth and former colonial countries, including Poland, Ireland, Malaysia, India and the Caribbean, to recruit nursing staff. Between 1948-1961, almost half a million people living in England and Wales were born overseas, the majority of which included the Caribbean Islands. Senior nursing staff travelled from Britain to Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago to recruit individuals between the ages of 18-30 years who were willing to commit to a three-year contract. Following the next two decades, steady streams of nurses were recruited to meet the demands of the UK and improved patient health conditions and staffing shortages within the NHS.
Upon arrival in the UK, only a few were met at train stations and taken to their contracted hospital, and many were left to find their own way. The nurses were grouped together in housing blocks next to the hospitals they were placed at, and were often placed with nurses from other Commonwealth countries. As one former nurse reported, “when anyone new came and brought food, the girls got together, sitting on the floor…like a big family…dividing it up between all of us.” This provided a support system and community whilst living away from their loved ones.
Two types of qualifications existed for nursing: the internationally recognised State Registered Nurse (SRN) and the State Enrolled Nurse (SEN) which allowed practice solely in the UK. After achieving and qualifying as a practising nurse, many could not progress higher and would not be promoted at all. Job roles were restricted to areas of the highest need, including psychiatry, geriatrics and hospitals for those terminally ill; overseas nurses were also more likely to be given anti-social hours and night shifts which were poorly staffed. During such shifts, nurses reported having to be wholly in charge of patients with no adjustments made in pay. Moreover, nurses were exposed to many discriminatory attitudes, racial slurs and even violence from patients who would throw their possessions at them; one nurse stated, “we were treated differently…but we didn’t worry because we know what we wanted to achieve and what we had to do and we did it.”
Nursing authorities argued that racial characteristics limited intellectual capabilities and motivational levels to achieve the international nursing qualification, thus many overseas nurses were forced into the state-enrolled nursing qualification which limited their options even further if they wanted to leave the UK.
In the 1960s, health minister Enoch Powell championed overseas recruitment as it provided ‘cheap labour, reduced wastage and undermined the [NHS staffing] shortage argument’ however this simultaneously strengthened his campaign against nurses’ pay claim, thus used the influx of BAME Nurses in 1960s as a weapon against unequal unequal/discriminatory pay.
There are lots of people from different organisations who make up the extended #1BigTeam at University Hospitals Plymouth (UHP). Abby Williams is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), trainer and assessor who has been part of St John Ambulance for nearly three years. St John Ambulance volunteers have been helping out at UHP since July this year supporting the Emergency Department at Derriford Hospital and helping to transfer patients.
“I joined St John Ambulance while I was at university studying to become a teacher. I love volunteering and being able to help people and I understand how important it is to know first aid. St John Ambulance does all of the above. Like most people at St John Ambulance I joined as a first aider and progressed through the roles to EMT, which means I have a wider scope of practices and can now crew ambulances through St John Ambulance. I also work with the training team, which brings my love of teaching and first aid together. Recently, along with a colleague, we’ve been busy training a new course to allow members to volunteer in hospital. This is where my experience at UHP comes in handy.
“Normally at this time of year, I would be offering first aid support at large events. Since lockdown these have obviously all been cancelled, which has been really odd. COVID-19 has meant that we have been able to support the NHS by going into hospitals, like Derriford, which has been an amazing experience.
“When we are doing a shift at Derriford, we arrive and introduce ourselves to the Nurse in Charge, saying hello to everyone else on the way. Once they know we are there we have a look and see if there is anything we can do straight away such as any call bells going off. We are able to offer a huge range of skills such as observations, personal care, providing tea and coffee. We also support transfers to other parts of the hospital. One of the most important things we do is give time to the patients. The Emergency Department gets really busy and there is always loads to do. We are happy to spend time talking to the patients, which is wonderful. No two days are the same and this keeps us on our toes!
“Outside of volunteering for St John Ambulance (most members of St John Ambulance are volunteers and hold full-time jobs) I am a primary school teacher and work for a local charity that helps special children. I like to keep busy, however, and during the summer holidays most of my time has been spent volunteering with St John Ambulance and supporting the NHS.
“The role has certainly changed over recent time, but it has allowed us a more diverse experience and I’ve learnt loads about medical terminology and been able to enhance my skills. It’s a change being stood in a hot Emergency Department rather than a field when it’s pouring down with rain!
“The experience of working in the Emergency Department has been brilliant. I’ve learnt so much and have enjoyed every minute whether it be putting skills into practice or simply having a chat with a patient. The Emergency Department staff do an incredible job and have been so welcoming and made us feel at home.
“The diversity of the role is certainly one of the best bits. I also love the fact that even when the Emergency Department is really busy, we are able to spend the time talking to patients, reassuring them and making their time in the Emergency Department that little bit better.
“For me, as a teacher, school is starting in September so the time I am able to give will be reduced. I hope to be able to do a few shifts on the weekend. I’ll also continue to train our members to enable them to support the NHS in hospitals and ensure they are ready for events when they start again.”
The Southwest Transplant Centre (SWTC) is a regional centre which offers a service for kidney patients across Plymouth, Cornwall and the South of Exeter. We provide both a deceased and living donor programme and currently follow up approximately 400 patients who have been transplanted. National statistics show we have one of the lowest waiting times in the country with most patients waiting around 18 months before receiving a kidney transplant.
COVID -19 presented the centre with many challenges; intensive care beds normally used to care for our donors were potentially needed for vulnerable patients requiring specialist treatment as a result of COVID-19. In addition newly transplanted patients who are given a high level of immunosuppression were extremely vulnerable if exposed to the virus.
In April following extensive discussions with other centres, our own referring centres and NHS Blood and Transplant we made the decision to temporarily close our programme in the best interest of our patients.
Two months later we began to tentatively re open the programme, activating patients back onto the transplant waiting list in phases with national guidance. Under the direction of Dr Imran Saif Director for Transplantation, the medical, surgical, immunology and nursing staff have worked incredibly hard to ensure the programme was reopened taking into consideration the safety of the patient. The transplant waiting list has been growing week by week and since reopening we have successfully transplanted 20 patients across our region which is an incredible achievement for all those involved in the programme and for those patients returning home with a new transplant and the prospect of not returning to or starting dialysis.
This has been a combined effort from many different services across the hospital, the renal unit (Mayflower ward) and support from the Trust management has ensured a safe environment for patients returning to the ward following surgery. Other services such as microbiology have been working hard in the background to swab patients and staff both routinely and in emergency situations to minimise the risk of infection from the virus. The support of the theatre and radiology departments has ensured the timely assessment and transplantation of patients.
Linda Boorer, Lead for Transplantation, would like to thank the on call team in conjunction with the immunology team in maintaining the on call rota during this period, still taking potential screening offers which although did not directly affect patients in our region they did benefit patients listed in other centres Also the transplant team have pro-actively managed both the suspension and re-activation of recipients in a short space of time and provided reassurance and information to anxious patients and their families.
Patient, Trudy said: I was sitting in the sunshine sipping a glass of white wine when I got the call. It was Wednesday, 29th July at 5.30pm. Owing to Covid19, the transplant list had been suspended. I had been reinstated on the newly opened list just two days beforehand. A rush of excitement and tears of joy ensued. I had been waiting for this call for almost three years owing to antibody issues.
“Arriving at the Mayflower Ward, firstly I was tested for Covid19. I am so grateful to the team who operated on me and everyone who continues to take care of me post-op. The high levels of attentive care surely must be the best and is administered in the most testing of Covid times. In the early days I had several clinical interventions daily, where Covid regulations were strictly adhered to throughout. What more could I ask for? In these dark Coronavirus days, to date I am one of the patients at Mayflower who unexpectedly has been given this exceptional life enhancing opportunity.”
Patient, Clive Sandercock and his wife Julie have also shared their feedback of being able to have telephone appointments during the COVID period:
“For us it is a 3 hour round journey to attend Derriford plus our time in the hospital,” said Julie. “It has worked really well Clive having his bloods done at home by our District Nurse and then we get them taken to Launceston and then onto Derriford. A weekly appointment is then made for a call from one of the Renal Team to discuss the bloods and alter medications if necessary. This has obviously cut down on the stress of us having to attend the hospital weekly for several months. We must stress that the Renal Team have been excellent throughout this difficult time and someone is always available to speak to should we have any problems.
“We think this is the way forward to cut patients having to attend hospital for appointments that can be dealt with by telephone. We certainly are happy if this continues. We would also like to thank everyone in the Renal Unit for your care and support throughout.”
If you would like to know more about transplantation in your local area please visithttps://www.odt.nhs.uk/transplantation/kidney/kidney-transplant-units/
If you are interested in living donation please contact either Gemma McCullough or Philip Isaac the Living Donor Coordinators on 01752 439955
2020 as a third-year student nurse has been a roller coaster, the kind that throws you about, bruises your ears, pretends to stop and then the person controlling it sends you on another relentless loop. Anyone that’s been on the mine train on a quiet day at Alton Towers will understand.
We went into lockdown with some vague rumours that there would be an extended paid placement or early graduation, but nobody really knew and anyone we asked was equally none the wiser. So we sat in limbo knowing only that we weren’t going to finish as normal. Then one day while watching the soap opera that was the Government’s daily update, it was announced that 18,000 third year student nurses were ready to deploy. We weren’t. We were sat on the sofa in our PJs wondering if chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk would meet the tea time nutritional requirements of our children.
So, a few weeks, some rather dodgy TikToks and some hastily scheduled employment checks later we were off out in the wild. Not a nurse or a student but an “Aspirant Nurse”. That title lasted as long as it took us to realise that nobody knew what it was and as we really didn’t know either we just went back to saying “student”.
I was lucky enough to be assigned Braunton ward in the red zone. I say lucky because actually if I’m going to have my life turned upside down by a brand-new disease, I want to meet that disease head on. Plus, I’m also really risk adverse and wanted all the PPE so deemed Braunton to be the safest place in the hospital. Turns out most of Team Covid had similar rationale and I found my people.
Not without some nerves (read “bricking it”) I went for my first shift in “The Red Zone”. With the first goal of locating the changing room, appropriate size scrubs and making it back to the ward completed (thank you fellow student for showing me) I began to feel a little better. And so my Covid, not- quite-nursing journey began.
I can honestly say that I’ve never met a more welcoming group of staff. “Are you here for the shift? We’re so pleased to have you.” Was a phrase that was often used, not just for me but for everyone on the team. As a newly formed team I soon found out that people were meeting people for the first time everyday and so it was actually easy to fit in and not be ‘the new girl’, while actually being the new girl. Working in full PPE is an experience. What I hadn’t considered before donning for the first time was that I’m actually quite claustrophobic, so that was an interesting internal chat to myself, thankfully I won that war and didn’t run crying from the ward in fear of someone putting a visor on me. As an aside, I can now go snorkelling because covid PPE cured me of the fear of the mask.
What also struck me is the levelling capacity of scrubs. Team Covid really was a team, one working towards the same agenda of keeping each other safe and doing the best for our patients. We had roles to fulfil but the hierarchy was essentially gone because everybody’s job was important, they always are, but if you don’t know if you’re talking to consultants or house keeping staff it opens the ground for communication, plus everyone has the same inhospitable working conditions, “It’s too hot” and “I need a wee” being the two most used phrases.
A short blog isn’t enough to express my student experience of Covid. But I’ll finish by saying I’ve made some amazing friends. I’ve had shifts that I’ve laughed until I cried, as well as shifts at the other end of the happiness spectrum. I genuinely can’t think of a better introduction to my nursing career. To my fellow 2020 graduates……we’ve got this.
Hannah Graham was in her third year as an adult nursing student on placement as an Aspirant Nurse. Read her reflections below:
My COVID placement was on a green ward on Level 12 where thankfully the impact of COVID was less than has been experienced in other areas of the hospital. The obvious challenges of learning to work while wearing a mask, gloves and apron were there, particularly during the hot weather, but I felt grateful to not have to wear the level of protection that others were wearing in higher risk areas.
I was shocked at how the pandemic was affecting other areas of health and wellbeing that I hadn’t considered before. I was particularly struck by the number of young people experiencing mental health crisis and parents at breaking point with all normal support structures either non-existent or running differently to normal. I found this challenging as on the ward there was little we could do to help these young people other than keep them safe during their admission. COVID has deepened my understanding of the importance of young people being at school and accessing support services in the community, not only for their education and personal development but also for their mental health and wellbeing.
The second event that challenged me was when a young child came onto the ward in distress. The mother and father were both in masks and couldn’t console the child. The mother reported that she didn’t think the child could recognise her with a mask on and this was causing her child distress. The mother removed her mask and almost straight away the child began to settle. This really challenged my view on the impact that PPE may have on young children and their ability to form attachments and trust. I guess this is something we will only know the true impact of in years to come as these children grow and develop.
While my placement threw up challenges that I wasn’t expecting it was one of the most rewarding placements I have had so far. It was an emotional roller-coaster but the sense of togetherness amongst staff was overwhelming. The welcome and support I received was amazing and, considering the pressure that staff were under, having been working in this environment for a number of months now I am incredibly thankful.
At first I thought we were the unlucky cohorts of students having this thrown into our training but looking back on this I believe that the opposite is the case. We have had learning opportunities that cohorts before us and after us may never have. I honestly feel this placement has shaped me to be a better nurse.
My name is Jill Singh and I started with the Trust as an Associate Educator: Learning Disabilities and Autism in April of this year. Following a successful bid to The Burdett Trust; a plan was put in place to improve the Trust’s LD training program. This included more use of co-trainers and a temporary Associate Educator post; which I was recruited into. Training in these areas is currently voluntary but will soon be mandatory.
It has definitely been interesting starting a new job in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and it helped that I knew the people in the Learning Disability (LD) Liaison Team and Derriford Autism Service really well beforehand. I have worked alongside the Trust since 2010 as an Independent LD Advocate and run the Derriford User Group.
My new role involves supporting the teams to review and develop their training frameworks and facilitate face to face training with staff. When COVID hit we had to rethink our plans so I learnt how to shoot and edit films so we could still offer sessions in a safe way. I have recorded one hour sessions with Saoirse Read and Kate Bamforth and two six minute clips with Dave McCannon our co-trainer with a LD so we could still have user involvement with follow up workshops.
Like many members of staff I have had to master MS Teams and have become an administrator on ESR and OLM so I can book colleagues onto courses. We will be coming around the wards with promotional posters advertising dates for our sessions between September to December. Tiers 1-2 are covered in a short e-learning presentation and quiz and Tier 3 is a MS Teams session.
In the New Year we hope to offer Masterclasses exploring different themes. For more information on any of our sessions please contact the teams, look on our StaffNET pages or check our team Facebook accounts @DerrifordT and @DerrifordAutism
Jill Singh Associate Educator Learning Disabilities and Autism
When I was six, I had to have my tonsils removed. Since that day, I have always wanted to be a nurse. The sister who looked after me had such a kind face and manner, a crisp uniform with a hat and waist buckle belt. She made me feel like she cared, like I was worth her time and I looked up to her. I knew she was who I wanted to be.
Cut to February 2003, I’m starting my training to become an adult trained nurse! This wasn’t easy and it took me longer than I expected to get my Diploma, but when I finally achieved it, I was so proud. I had reached my life-long goal to date and was in for the long haul.
My first five years were spent in adult neuro intensive care. During this time, I cared for a pregnant lady with a brain injury, who went into preterm labour. After a c-section, the neonatal sister brought her new son down to visit whilst she was still sedated and on a ventilator. There was so much equipment on wheels – incubator, ventilator, pumps, you name it – it was there. But the sister was so calm, kind and baby oriented amidst the chaos. I did not know what was happening, but I was fascinated by this small baby nestling up to his mum’s chest to try to breastfeed, mouth wide open. So much so, I asked the sister: “are any jobs going where you work?”
After I finished my four nights with his mum, I visited the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) educator, enquiring about how to get a job. Low and behold a job became available a couple of weeks later and I jumped at the chance. Shortly after I left Neuro ICU, to join the NICU team.
Fast-forward to March 2020. I have completed my special care module, Qualification in Speciality training, mentorship training, joined the transport service and became one of the first of three Enhanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner’s (ENNP) at the Trust
Then suddenly, Covid-19 starts to appear on the news. At first I thought nothing of it, it’s just a bad case of flu. I have actually had a strain of coronavirus before, and despite making my asthma flare up and landing me a short stint in hospital, I got over it and lived to tell the tale. Why should I be worried? I’m a nurse – I’ve been through worse.
The risks to asthmatics were like nothing we’ve seen.
Then the stories started to flood in. The risks to asthmatics were like nothing we’ve seen. I didn’t want to be a ‘vulnerable person’ but according to the news, the government and risk assessments, that’s exactly what I am.
So now I am at home. Not working as nurse, transport or as an ENNP. Instead I am shielding to protect myself. This hits me hard. Harder than I could possibly imagine, more than any the other issue I’ve have had to deal with. I’ve survived cancer, pregnancy loss, family loss, asthma. But Covid-19 knocks me down in a way I never expected. Since childhood, I have always helped, saved, cared for strangers and loved ones and now I can’t. I’ve got to do what lots of nurse’s struggle to do – care for myself, put myself first. I was not prepared for that.
The guilt was overwhelming and at week six, I crumbled.
Watching the news, reading about it online, hearing it all on the radio as I ‘worked from home’ made me feel guilty – guilty for not being able to help, guilty for not being part of the team (I was asked to return back to adult ITU to prepare and care for the potential patients that would arrive, but I couldn’t), guilty for not being there to support my co-workers, friends and family. The guilt was overwhelming and at week six, I crumbled.
When I participated in the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) Covid-19 webinar, my emotions were running wild. I realised I needed support as all this was taking a toll on my mental health. I reached out to my line manager and the NICU Senior Sister, spoke to the mental health Covid-19 support team and I broke down – toxic guilt had taken over and I needed to open my eyes to the truth.
The mental health team were amazing, set me back on track and made me see that I am still a nurse, will always be a nurse – as long as I look after myself. I had to let go of the guilt, I was not working but I was still saving lives and my own. I was not going to become a statistic; I wasn’t going to put the strain on the NHS and pressure on the ITU team and ONE day I will be able to return to my team back on NICU.
I was honest with my manager and NICU sister, a small support group was created with our unit mental health support lead, allowing for others to speak up honestly and freely. The guilt it seems, was felt by us all and we were all adjusting to it differently. But together, we stayed safe, we stayed strong and we are still able to care, nurse and look after those who will need us when we come back.
Hopefully sometime soon, I can be back doing what I love the most.
So, I am at the start of week 15, completed many, many packages of e-learning, written some guidelines, attending meetings, a REaSoN training course, completed rotas, kept myself busy with tasks shared out by my colleagues who are still practicing. I have learned to forgive myself for not ‘nursing’, but I am still a nurse, now with more IT and management skills then before, and hopefully sometime soon, I can be back doing what I love the most.
Covid-19 might always be around, but so will nurses, ENNPs, ANNPs, doctors, physios, cleaners, carers, psychologists, occupational health colleagues, radiographers, managers, the police, the fire officers…the list goes on and on. For we are all part of one massive team, one massive family, always working together, saving lives and our own.
Gym instructor Katie Bounsall didn’t think about it twice when the NHS was asking for volunteers and decided to help out in the wards. She’s had a very positive experience and tells us all about it in this video.