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

Uncovering hidden histories at the RPS Museum

by Matthew Johnston, RPS Museum

Part of our work here at the RPS Museum includes researching various aspects of pharmacy history so we can enrich our displays, tours and articles, especially those areas that are currently under-represented in the museum.

A recent focus of this research has been to uncover more stories relating to BAME communities. This isn’t an easy task as historical registers of pharmacists did not record information relating to ethnicity. In addition to this lack of documentary evidence, there is little visual material available, particularly in the early years of the Society before the widespread introduction of photography.

But we didn’t let that stop us. When we look through the records, we can see tantalising glimpses of stories that we can use as a starting point for our research. The earliest specific reference we have found in the Society’s archive is the arrival of the first black African student at the School of Pharmacy in 1847, as noted in the report of the Annual General Meeting of May 1848, which reflects the attitudes of the time:

It is also gratifying to find that some have come from distant countries, and one of these, an intelligent African, is probably the first native of that soil who will apply a knowledge of Chemistry acquired in an English School, with the view of promoting the arts of civilization among his colored brethren.”

But who was this student? Frustratingly he isn’t named, but he may have been Joseph Mailloux. The Society published its first list of ‘Foreign Life Members’ in the Pharmaceutical Journal in 1856 and Joseph is listed as having been admitted to membership in 1847. He was based in Mauritius, which at that time was a British colony. His certificate number of 28 shows that he took and passed one of the Society’s exams, so would have been studying at the School around the time referred to in the above report.

Despite poring over the various resources available to us, we couldn’t find out much more about Joseph Mailloux. He remains on the Society’s register until 1877, so seems to have had a 30-year career. An annotation in the Registrar’s copy of the register confirms that his removal was because he had died, but no obituary was published in either the Pharmaceutical Journal or the Chemist and Druggist, a familiar story with international members of the Society at this time.

There is still a lot of work to do in terms of including more marginalised voices in the museum. Hopefully this blog has shown that there are stories to be told and histories to be revealed – we just need to keep on digging to find them and highlight diversity in the profession.

Our mentoring relationship

Being a mentee: Aamir Shaikh

I met my mentor Aamer Safdar whilst working at Kings College London. I was the 3rd year Professional Lead, and was introduced to him and he told me about his background, both personal and professional.  Just by listening to him, I knew that his values were similar to my own. 

Challenge

I now work at BUPA as the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellow, but before that I worked within the Education Directorate at RPS.  It was there I worked alongside Aamer in projects involving undergraduates.  You will hear that pharmacy is a small world and this is one such example!  My manager explained how it is important to work alongside colleagues who will challenge your thinking and I found this in Aamer.  Our mentor/mentee relationship first established when we went out for dinner as a post-work group; it was here when I decided to formalise my mentor/mentee relationship with him. 

Benefits

I’ve benefited greatly from the mentor/mentee relationship. It’s given me thinking space but its been advantageous to both my personal and professional life to have someone to challenge my own thinking in whatever situation or scenario I am experiencing.  In our last meeting Aamer and I spoke about authenticity, congruence and integrity.  I found it particularly useful hearing from someone in Aamer’s position, a current GPhC Council member and previous RPS English Pharmacy Board member, about how important it is to stay true to your own values and what these values really mean.

We use the RPS mentor platform to record our meetings and have found that, as well as the normal methods of keeping in touch, the platform has been beneficial in keeping us focused. I couldn’t stress the importance of having a mentor enough.  It has really helped me focus whenever I have found myself in a sticky situation and I’m grateful for the time Aamer has shared with me.

Being a Mentor: Aamer Safdar

I have been a mentor to many people inside and outside of pharmacy and have used a variety of methods with my mentees which have included traditional face to face sessions as well as mentoring exclusively by email and by phone; in the latter two cases, I never met my mentees in real life until much later in our relationships! 

I currently mentor two pharmacists, at different stages in their careers, using the RPS mentoring platform.  The platform is useful because I have outlined the areas in which I would like to mentor in to manage my mentees’ expectations. 

Sharing experiences

In both of my meetings, we spoke about our careers and challenges at different levels and I was able to share my experiences and wisdom from both my day job and from being in national boards.  Much of my wisdom has come from my own mentors, who have been different people at different stages of my career,and with different perspectives and advice.  Without a mentor to bounce things off, I doubt I would have done many of the things I have done in my career.

Find out more about our mentoring scheme exclusively for members

Women in leadership: believe and achieve!

by Amandeep Doll, RPS Regional Liaison Pharmacist

This year I am delighted to be co-chairing our Women in Leadership event on 3rd October 2019 with the RPS President Sandra Gidley.  We had an incredible response to our event last year and want this year to be even bigger and better!

Believe and Achieve

The theme of this years event is Believe and Achieve. The day is full of practical advice and workshops to help you believe in yourself, celebrate your successes and be comfortable with your ambition. We have sessions with Clare Howard and Frances Akor who are current leaders; they will be sharing who their role models are and what values they believe you need to be successful.

Women are often negatively labelled according to their personality traits such as ‘too aggressive’ when they’ve demonstrated confidence in their roles, and others have included ‘too serious’, ‘too questioning,’ ‘too emotional’ and ‘too caring’.

You’ll learn how to achieve your next leadership role by challenging these stereotypes, as well as getting practical advice on how to overcome difficulties, increase your resilience and craft a winning CV.  We have workshops by Harpreet Chana and Heather Fraser from IBM on increasing your confidence and position yourself to get that leadership post.

To embrace the diversity of experiences and beliefs that women bring to leadership teams we also have a men as allies session, to celebrate the differences between men and women and how we can work together to be a successful team.

You’ll leave the event feeling more confident to apply for and take on leadership roles and also to support female colleagues to take those steps to becoming a great leader. 

Come and take part in our Women in Leadership event on 3rd October.

A question of confidence

by pharmacist Harpreet Chana, certified professional coach, speaker, trainer and founder of the Mental Wealth Academy

I am so excited to be leading a workshop on confidence at the RPS Women in Leadership Event! After attending the event last year and learning that the main barrier we face as women in progressing up the ranks within our sector was confidence, I wanted to run a workshop to address this issue and am delighted to be doing so.

Never too late

From my own experience, I understand that confidence, resilience, emotional intelligence and better outer/inner communication are essential life and leadership skills. They enable us to be mentally tough, deal with life’s challenges and are core skills that help reduce the impact of mental health on performance and life fulfilment. We are not taught these at school or university, but the good news is, it’s not too late! We can still learn these vital skills and how to apply them to our daily lives so that we are all much healthier and happier individuals as a result.

Confidence matters

How confident are you really? Has there ever been a time where a lack of confidence has stopped you from going for what you really want? From speaking up? From asking for a pay rise/promotion? From putting yourself forward for opportunities at work or at home?

How do you talk to yourself on a daily basis? Are you very critical of yourself if you make a mistake or can you forgive yourself and seize the opportunity to grow and learn from every slip-up? No matter how confident we think we are, there are always times when a lack of confidence or our biggest fears can hold us back from achieving our true potential. My confidence mini masterclass will help you to address how you see yourself and to appreciate how truly awesome you really are!

Come and take part in Harpreet’s workshop at our Women in Leadership event on 3rd October.

Bring your whole self to work

By Robbie Turner, RPS Director for Pharmacy and Member Experience

Pharmacy is a very diverse profession, especially in terms of gender and ethnicity.  As your professional body, we want to recognise, celebrate and encourage a variety of voices and experiences across pharmacy to better represent you.

The diversity we see is not necessarily represented at senior and leadership level though. Things could be better, and as an organisation we recognise we could also do more in this space.

That’s why I’m so excited we have launched a new programme of work on inclusion and diversity. 

Pharmacists often work in isolation, and especially in the case of community pharmacy, may often be the only healthcare professional on the premises. It can be hard to bring your authentic self to work when your environment means you don’t feel comfortable expressing who you are.  When we don’t bring our whole selves to work we can suffer – in terms of our wellbeing and our work.

We are about to go out to the profession as a whole to get your views on how inclusion and diversity can be improved and celebrated. There will be opportunities to engage with us on this to make sure that our strategy is truly created hand in hand with you.

We’ll be launching a survey at the end of the month as a starter. It’s incredibly important that as many of you as possible complete it – it’s your chance to be in at the start and ensure you inform what we do, both in the short and longer term.

After that we’ll be creating and celebrating some key events such as Women in Leadership and Black History Month in October.

We’ll be sharing our initial thinking at our annual conference on 17th November. 

I’m convinced this programme is the right way forward for the profession, as is everyone at the RPS. Who you truly are matters. We want you to feel able to bring your whole self to work and experience a sense of belonging. I hope you join us on this journey. 

Pride: professional is personal

by Gareth Kitson, RPS Professional Development and Engagement Lead

Like everyone, my professional identity is informed by my personal life. Achieving that identity has at times been a struggle and is always a work in progress. It’s something I have learned to take pride in.

As I have progressed through my career, I’ve realised that identifying as a gay man is a bigger part of my identity than I once thought. 

Speaking up

I have had countless conversations with colleagues about what it is like to be a gay man living in London. I’ve spoken about how I have faced prejudice and discrimination because of my sexual identity.  I have highlighted the changes in sexual health provision and how HIV is no longer associated with the falling tombstone of the 1980s. I’ve updated people on how PrEP is transforming the prevention agenda for men who have sex with men.

Being a pharmacist is a huge part of my identity and my sexual identity is too. It often intertwines with other aspects of my personality, including my professional life.  If I feel accepted and safe in my working environment, I’m more creative, better engaged and form stronger working relationships.

Pride

This is why I’m really proud that the RPS is walking in the Pride in London Parade in 2019. 

This is the first time we’ve done something like this.  I’m proud that my professional body recognises both my professional and personal identity. Members of staff and members of RPS will be walking in the Parade on July 6th – if you see us, give us a wave! #wearepharmacy.

Why Pride matters


By Gareth Kitson, RPS Professional Development and Engagement Lead

I had known for a long time that I was gay but had never had to acknowledge it. I never engaged with the LGBT+ community at Uni as I had a ready-made group of friends. I wasn’t confident enough to engage with members of the community as I felt I had to behave in a certain way.  After moving to London I was pushed into the one of the most vibrant and diverse communities in the world and wasn’t ready for the effect it would have on me.

Fitting in

Every aspect of the LGBT+ community had “tribes” or “communities” and I really struggled to find my place.  I also found it really hard to make friends outside of a dating environment.  Most gay men will tell you the same story – insecurity, isolation and the struggle to “fit in”. 

In July 2012 I was out shopping on Oxford Street and accidentally stumbled on the Pride in London Parade.  I felt overwhelmed, curious and confused as to what was happening.  I stopped and watched the entire Parade pass by and spent the rest of the day reflecting on what I had just seen.

Not alone

For the first time, I suddenly felt that I wasn’t alone.  I suddenly realised that there were other people living in the same city as me who identified as a member of the LGBT+ community.  There were opportunities to meet people who may have gone through the same experiences as you, be it coming to terms with your own identity or coming out to your family and friends. 

This one day showed me that people from all backgrounds can stand next to each other and be proud of who they are.  That families can gather and show their children that it is OK for a man to love a man and that some of their friends may have two mummies instead of a mummy and a daddy. 

It was heart-warming, confidence-boosting and empowering when I finally realised that I wasn’t alone.  That I could live my life as I wanted, being true to who I really was, in the city I now called home. That’s why Pride matters.

Members of staff and members of the RPS will be walking in the Parade on 6th July. If you see us, give us a wave #wearepharmacy.

Salbutamol – landmark asthma treatment

by John Betts, Keeper of the RPS Museum

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark asthma treatment Salbutamol becoming commercially available in the UK. Salbutamol is still widely used today to relieve symptoms of asthma and COPD such as coughing, wheezing and feeling breathless. It works by relaxing the muscles of the airways into the lungs, making it easier to breathe.

Launched in 1969 with the brand name Ventolin, Salbutamol revolutionised the treatment of bronchial asthma.

It treated bronchospasm far more effectively compared with previous bronchodilators and had fewer side effects.

To understand how much of a breakthrough Salbutamol was in the treatment of asthma, it’s first worth comparing it to the drugs that were used to treat asthma before 1969.

One of the main drugs used for treating asthma in the mid-1960s was isoprenaline. This is a powerful bronchodilator and was used to relieve bronchospasm. However, the side effects include a sudden increased heart rate. Between 1963 and 1968 in the UK there was an increase in deaths among people using isoprenaline to treat asthma. This was attributed to overdose due to both excessive use of the aerosols and the high dosage they dispensed.

In the mid-1960s the mortality rate for asthma sufferers had risen to over 2,000 deaths a year. An effective bronchodilator was desperately needed that did not stimulate the heart or affect blood pressure.

Salbutamol was discovered in 1966 by a research team at Allen and Hanburys (a subsidiary of Glaxo). Salbutamol was the first drug that selectively targeted specific receptors in the lungs, inhibiting the production of proteins needed to produce muscle contractions. It works by relaxing the smooth muscle of the airways, opening them up and so lessening or preventing an asthma attack. Not only was Salbutamol a good bronchodilator, it lasted longer than isoprenaline, and inhalation caused fewer side effects.

In addition to the effectiveness of the drug, the method of administration itself was also revolutionary. The Ventolin inhaler was designed to ensure metered aerosol doses of Salbutamol were inhaled straight into the patient’s lungs.

The drug was an instant success.

The only real deficiency of Salbutamol was its short duration of action; at 4 hours it couldn’t prevent night-time asthma attacks. In response to this the pharmaceutical manufacturer Glaxo aimed to develop a longer acting drug. The result of their research was Salmeterol. Launched in 1990 with the brand name Serevent, it had a 12-hour duration of action.

50 years on Salbutamol is still on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines; a testament to the major role it continues to play in the treatment of asthma. 

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