Where there's a vaccine, there's a Pharmacy Technician

Ellen Williams, launched her career as a Pharmacy Technician after school. She now ensures pharmacy technicians receive the training, education and support to thrive in their roles, as the Director of Regional Pharmacy Training, Pharmacy Workforce Development South (PWDS) and Vice President of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK). She spoke to us about why she's proud to represent pharmacy technicians and the important work they do. 

Hi Ellen! Please can you tell us more about what you do?

I am a pharmacy technician who specialises in education and training.

I lead an NHS pharmacy education and workforce development company within the South West. I am also a professional lead for the pharmacy technician profession.

Why are technicians like you so important?

Pharmacy Technicians play an integral part in helping patients to make the most of their medicines. From preparation and supply of medicines to supporting medicines reviews and administration of medicines, pharmacy technicians work across primary and secondary care, for example, in hospitals, community pharmacies, GP practices, care homes and patient’s homes; also in prisons, the armed forces and in industry. The skillset of a pharmacy technician is now widely recognised and career pathways have developed in areas such as management, education, procurement, medicines information, technical services and clinical services.

More recently pharmacy technicians have played a vital role in the mass COVID vaccination programme, being involved in all aspects of the process, including the procurement, storage and distribution, preparation and administration of the vaccine.

Helping others to reach their full potential and ensuring that pharmacy services are delivered to the highest possible standard for the benefit of patients is very rewarding.

 

What couldn’t happen without you?

In both my PWDS and APTUK roles I can sometimes be the only pharmacy technician in a meeting with other professions who are represented by many individuals. My vision is that one day this will change and there will be parity for the pharmacy technician profession but for now, I often have to be the lone voice representing the profession, challenging, lobbying and championing the roles, and this can feel like a big responsibility. 

What led you to choose this job role?

Like many pharmacy technicians I think I ‘fell’ into the role. At 18 years old, the opportunity to work in healthcare, completing vocational qualifications over 2 years whilst in full time employment was perfect for my circumstances; but it was purely by chance that I found the advert in the local newspaper. I can honestly say I never looked back though. It was the best decision I ever made!

...pharmacy technicians have played a vital role in the mass COVID vaccination programme, being involved in all aspects of the process, including the procurement, storage and distribution, preparation and administration of the vaccine

 

What’s the best bit about your job?

Supporting the development of others. I have always been passionate about education & training. Helping others to reach their full potential and ensuring that pharmacy services are delivered to the highest possible standard for the benefit of patients is very rewarding.

What skills/ attributes do you normally need to do your job?

My job requires a lot of plate spinning! The world of pharmacy education has many layers - apprenticeships, pre-registration, foundation and advanced practice, spanning different areas of the pharmacy workforce across different sectors and specialties. You need to be able to keep up to speed with developments and to identify areas where developments may be required. It takes an ability to rapidly switch hats whilst keeping on top of actions.

As a leader, of my PWDS team, and the pharmacy technician profession for APTUK, my role requires passion, enthusiasm, excellent communication skills, an ability to bring others on the journey with me and often a degree of patience. As a relatively newly registered profession (pharmacy technician registration became mandatory in 2011) there is still much work to be done to champion the innovative new roles pharmacy technicians are ready to take on and to advocate for the profession.

What is your current daily routine like?

Ordinarily, it would be hard to define a daily routine for my role. Pre-pandemic no two days were the same and I spent a lot of time travelling across the country for stakeholder meetings and training events. Since the start of the pandemic I now spend a lot of time on calls and virtual meetings, supporting my team and their training events. My team have worked extremely hard to move all of our training programmes to virtual delivery and this has become an established way of working for us now. It’s safe to say I have had to learn to love Microsoft Teams and Zoom!

My APTUK role involves a lot of national stakeholder meetings which again are now all online. The shift to virtual meetings has been a huge enabler for the organisation as we now have more flexibility to attend a wider range of meetings and events’, ensuring the pharmacy technician voice is heard and the profession is effectively represented. As we are all volunteers at APTUK, this flexibility really helps to fit things in around the day job too.

What's different in your day-to-day role due to the pandemic?

Although my role has seen a move away from practice over recent years, ultimately I am, and always will be a pharmacy technician. It has been very rewarding to dust off my practical skills and return to practice to support services in University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust where we are based, during the peaks of the pandemic - resuming a role as an Accuracy Checker in the first wave and more recently as a pharmacy supervisor in the Trust staff COVID vaccination hub. These roles have been in addition to the usual day job but it has been great to be able to contribute to the frontline services as and when needed. 

What would you say to either a young person thinking about a technical career? And to fellow Pharmacy Technicians?

A career as a pharmacy technician is extremely rewarding. There are so many areas in which you could choose to specialise and develop your practice, and the roles are evolving all the time. The future for our profession is very exciting!

My biggest piece of advice to a fellow pharmacy technician would be to always try to get involved where you can, be proud of your profession, and seize every opportunity; you just never know where they might lead…

 

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