How to ensure effective mentoring

Stephen Goundrey-Smith explains how pharmacists can benefit from mentoring and gives his recommendations for ensuring mentees and mentors get the most out of a mentoring relationship

Mentoring is a useful tool for those interested in career progression or simply anyone wanting support. 

Mentoring is a one-to-one relationship of professional development, usually between someone seeking professional progression and a more experienced practitioner. This could also include someone seeking to develop new expertise and a practitioner already active in that area.

Mentoring is different from coaching in that mentoring is concerned with professional development, rather than learning specific skills but many commentators argue that there is considerable crossover between the two.

Mentoring has been shown to have a positive impact on career development in healthcare, helping to improve confidence and interpersonal skills of mentors as well as mentees. It also improves career retention rates and work performance. Moreover, work among psychiatrists showed that mentoring greatly benefited professionals who worked in multidisciplinary teams or who were isolated from their peers in daily practice. Read the full article here

Find out more about RPS Mentoring and how it can help you.

Reducing antibiotic prescribing through system leadership

by Katie Perkins, Medicines Management Adviser Hastings & Rother Clinical Commissioning Group

At the end of 2018 I took on the role of CCG medicines management lead for antimicrobial prescribing (alongside promotion to Medicines Management Adviser and respiratory lead). I work across two CCGs which cover 43 GP practices.

RPS AMS training

The RPS AMS training programme became available at just the right time in terms of my new role and immediately before the start of our 2019/20 prescribing support scheme. I was already out and about talking to GPs about their antibiotic prescribing and in particular three out of the 10 practices that I look after were particular outliers for antimicrobial prescribing. The learning that I undertook as part of the course, particularly in Quality Improvement (QI) methodology was invaluable and we were given a brilliant opportunity to “try this out in practice” with tutor support.

My QI project

The QI project I chose was to reduce inappropriate prescribing of antibiotic rescue packs for COPD exacerbations and ultimately for this to help reduce the total number of antibiotic items (per STAR PU) prescribed by the practice.

I carried out a patient level search at the practice to identify people with COPD who were prescribed an antibiotic rescue pack on repeat prescription. 22 people were identified and 9 of these had received six or more courses in the preceding twelve months.

In preparation for presenting this to the practice I met with a nurse at another practice which had robust and effective processes in place for the issue and follow up of COPD rescue packs – this was helpful in ensuring that I had a realistic handle on what is reasonable to expect in practice.

I met with the four practice GPs, pharmacist and practice manager and presented them with the list of these patients. I asked them to review each one to determine if the antibiotic remains appropriate. I provided them with current national guidance from NICE on this area as well as our local formulary guidance.

Where an antibiotic rescue pack was appropriate, the GPs were asked to consider only prescribing this as an acute prescription (not on repeat) or, as a compromise, if they would prefer to keep them on repeat, to consider a maximum of two issues before the patient was reviewed. I was surprised that the practice agreed to move all prescriptions to acute and for all new rescue pack prescribing to be issued only on acute.

They also agreed to include instructions in the rescue pack directions for the person to contact the surgery when they started taking it. The practice already had a leaflet that they give out to people when they are first prescribed a rescue pack – they now aim to give this out more consistently.

Results and impact of my QI project

Before the QI project (February 2019) the practice was the highest prescriber of antibiotics in the CCG (total items/STARPU). The latest data from PrescQIPP (August 2019) shows that the practice has dropped to the 9th highest (out of 23 practices) and reduced their total antibiotic prescribing by 10%.

Practice bar charts Antibacterial items/STAR-PU showing 12 months rolling data to August 2019

This is likely to be in part due to the reduction in rescue pack prescribing but I suspect that the project may also have provided a renewed focus on reducing inappropriate antibiotic prescribing more generally.

Getting all the GPs and the practice pharmacist together and presenting the data to them face to face really got them thinking about the possible consequences of these repeat prescriptions. They all committed to reviewing these patients and they have changed their behaviour when it comes to managing COPD rescue pack prescribing.

Next Steps

As mentioned previously the response to my QI project proposal by the practice pleasantly surprised me and this has given me the confidence to roll the QI out to the other 42 practices across the CCGs. I also plan to look at other areas of repeat prescribing of antibiotics such as UTI prophylaxis and long term prescribing for acne and rosacea.

Find out more about our AMS training in England

Inclusion and diversity update

by Paul Bennett, RPS Chief Executive

As your professional body, we are now working towards an inclusion and diversity strategy for pharmacy that values difference. We want to recognise, celebrate and encourage all voices and experiences across pharmacy so we can better represent you and our patients.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending three recent events hosted by the RPS to engage with members on this really important issue. The first was a celebration during Black History Month of the BAME community’s contribution to pharmacy and we had fantastic contributions and insights shared on the day.

The second was an Inclusion & Diversity workshop which was a key milestone on the programme of work we’ve embarked on. Being authentic at work, and in turn being able to feel a sense of true belonging, is something that means so much to each of us individually and I’m keen to champion this here at the RPS. I’m a strong believer that you can only be your best self if you are allowed to be the person you truly are in your workplace, so this programme, under the guidance of our excellent Chair, Asif Sadiq MBE, will produce a strategy that we hope will resonate across the profession as well as within the RPS itself.

The third event I attended was the Retired Pharmacist Group of the RPS. It’s clear to me that older age does not mean a decline in drive, energy and enthusiasm for the profession (or for life!) and I came away feeling both inspired and thankful to have among our membership such passionate and professional people who we can all learn so much from. I do hope RPG members take up my invitation to become RPS Mentors!

Our recent I&D survey of members has highlighted that they wish us to do more in the areas of disability, race and age, and we’ll be looking at how we can do this most effectively. We’ve also got a timeline of our activity so you can track our progress.

My view is that we can only be effective at tackling I&D issues if we’re not afraid to hear about the problems and challenges faced and address them. This requires each of us to have the courage to speak up and commit to not walking past inappropriate activity where we see it. Those of us in a position to create the environment for concerns to be raised without fear should do everything we can to enable that to happen.

I said at our I&D workshop that at times I had been self-conscious as a white, middle aged, heterosexual male trying to engage in conversation about BAME and LGBT+ issues as it might be perceived that I had no credibility to do so. Having talked about this with many people, I now realise that I’m not alone in having that concern BUT that it’s better to share my perspective, understand it for what it is, listen to all the other perspectives and actively contribute to this vital agenda. No one individual can profess to speak on behalf of groups of others, as we each have a unique perspective – we are all individuals after all, even though we will identify with certain groups.

RPS can only have credibility in this space if we ‘walk the talk’. Part of our commitment is therefore to do what is right by publishing data that shows our performance as an employer striving to create equal opportunity. We already publish data on our gender pay gap here at RPS and in future I am committing that we will also publish data on ethnicity and pay. We are not required by law to do either but it’s simply the right thing to do, as we believe we should lead by example.

I encourage you to engage with this discussion about inclusion and diversity whenever and wherever you can and to champion everyone’s right to be their authentic self in the workplace. Being authentic, feeling comfortable with who we are and bringing a diversity of perspectives and views to work will enrich the RPS and help us deliver the best possible support for our members, whatever their age, race, gender or sexuality.

Mentoring – a role for retired pharmacists

by Theresa Rutter, FFRPS FRPharmS

Most of us will have done some mentoring and many like me will have no formal qualification. I became interested after being mentored years ago by a non-pharmacist working towards a formal mentoring qualification. I found the process so useful that I wondered why it wasn’t embedded within the profession as a self-development tool.

Mentoring as a retired pharmacist

We retired pharmacists have the experience and skills to support the self-development of pharmacists at all stages of their career.

I started to mentor before retiring and have continued since with up to 6 mentees at varying intervals. They work in different sectors and levels of seniority.

Their areas of focus have included leadership, effective team work, staff management, prioritising, change management, problem solving, negotiating, influencing and work life balance.

The competencies (in the Advanced Pharmacy Framework) relating to these generic skills do not go past their expiry date.

I’ve found that career progression often means that mentees come to value satisfaction about their performance and recognition more highly.

Feedback from my mentees about their experience of mentoring

  • Mentoring provides a safe space and encourages them to explore options and find solutions to challenges
  • Retirees may have more time & flexibility to fit round the working hours of mentees
  • The empathetic relationship helps them to be honest about problems and areas for self-improvement
  • The sessions give them head space for reflection and creative thinking

What’s in it for mentors?

  • Stimulates neuronal pathways (use it or lose it)
  • The opportunity to share expertise and see mentees thrive is rewarding
  • It’s always good to get positive feedback

How you can get involved in mentoring?

It’s easy to sign up – RPS has launched a new mentoring platform which facilitates easy and appropriate matching of mentor to mentee. You need to reflect on the skills you can offer to the mentees, complete your profile and then keep an eye on your emails for requests from potential mentees, which you can either accept or decline.

For mentees, the same principles apply. They need to reflect on what they would like to get from a mentoring relationship and once registered can select a mentor based on their preferred profile of skills and experience, interest and local area (optional).

Sign up at www.rpharms.com/mentoring