From community pharmacist to Medical Science Liaison

Sinead Monaghan, Medical Science Liaison, Sanofi

I graduated with a master’s degree in pharmacy from Queen’s University Belfast.I undertook my pre-registration year in a community pharmacy chain in Northern Ireland. I was employed as a pharmacist manager with the same company post pre-registration year. I spent a further four years as a community pharmacist.

I thoroughly enjoyed this role, especially being a pharmacist tutor. This very much sparked my interest in training others. I had always been curious about alternative pharmacist roles, but felt my knowledge of career paths was limited.

When I thought about industry I just pictured laboratory work and didn’t realise the vast career paths available to pharmacists. It was a family member that suggested venturing industry opportunities. This family member had worked in industry for many years and was aware of opportunities for pharmacists. I began researching medical roles and shortly came across the Medical science liaison (MSL) role.

I met with an MSL who lived and worked in Northern Ireland to gather information on the role. I soon realised that it would a great opportunity for development and sounded like something I would really enjoy and succeed in. After interviewing for a few roles, I was offered an MSL role in a large global pharmaceutical company. I was so excited.

As I was living in Belfast at the time, I had to relocate for my initial role in industry. I spent three wonderful years in Liverpool where I gained a lot of experience working across the English and Welsh healthcare systems. The MSL role allowed me to meet lots of healthcare professionals, learn about new medications and upcoming research, work with various departments in my company, upskill my clinical knowledge and most importantly allowed me to develop my career.

After three years in the role, I knew that industry was the career path for me. However,there was one thing I had always wanted to do before I settled in to the role long term. I took some time out to travel. When I returned eight months later, I was offered a maternity cover MSL role within the company I had left in a different therapy area. Once the maternity cover was finished I interviewed for a permanent role in yet another division within the company.

I was delighted as I was able to return home to Ireland and work there. To date, I have worked in three different therapy areas and across all of the health care systems in the UK and Ireland. This has given me broad clinical experience, broad knowledge of healthcare systems and allowed me to work with health care professionals across many disciplines.My day to day work is extremely rewarding. I am continually learning and meeting so many interesting people along the way. It has been an amazing experience and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a career change.

For more information on how to get a job in the pharmaceutical industry, visit our website

Professional Standards – committing to change and improvement

By Suzanne Scott-Thomas, Chair of RPS in Wales

Professional standards are central to improving practice, creating a more responsive service for our patients and increasing efficiencies.

Part two of this blog on the value of professional standards highlights another example of how using the RPS Hospital Pharmacy Standards has helped reshape a service, along with tips on creating change and improvement.

In my organisation we took a look at our patient discharge process realised it needed to change. The Hospital Standard: When care is transferred to another setting, patients are referred or signposted to appropriate follow-up or support, helped us improve the discharge process.

Outcomes included action being taken to implement ‘MTeD’, the electronic discharge advice letter system to electronically transfer information to GPs, as well as connect to the ‘Choose Pharmacy’ system in community pharmacies. This means that when patients are discharged, we can make certain that patients are appropriately receiving Discharge MURS. In this way, we’re handing over pharmaceutical care on discharge in a seamless way. MTeD is currently rolling out across all of the Health Boards in Wales, and we’re pleased to see the numbers of DMURs via the Choose Pharmacy system increasing.

Committing to change and improvement

As with anything in life, we get out what we put in. I would really recommend taking time to appreciate how you can get the best out of professional standards and how this can help you deliver and improve patient care. I would recommend you:

  • Engage – be a part of the process of developing the standards
  • Influence – what should the standards be? what would good look like in your organisation?
  • Own – we must think of them as our standards, not as being imposed on us by others
  • Understand – what do they mean for your service & your patients?
  • Use and apply them – in service re-design & service improvement, in business cases, in PDRs
  • Use them again – maintaining professional standards is a continuous process, with ever changing needs & expectations
  • Review – are the standards still fit for purpose, is there better practice out there, what might come next? Professional standards need to continue to stretch and challenge.

This all underpins continuous service improvement.

I would encourage all colleagues to commit to professional standards so we can deliver more for patients.

As a Chief Pharmacist in Wales, I have oversight and responsibility for pharmacy services provided in hospital, the community and primary care. Following the experience of putting the hospital standards into practice, I fully welcome the work the RPS is doing to create Professional Standards for Community Pharmacy. This gives us a great opportunity to reflect on the services we provide in the community, shape future services and deliver the high-quality care that patients deserve.

 Get involved

If you’d like to find out more, give your views, or get involved in the development of the important community pharmacy standards, have a look at the community pharmacy professional standards webpage.

How Sarah became a Medical Science Liaison

Dr. Sarah Anne Goffin, Medical Science Liaison at Sanofi

I come from a family of healthcare professionals and have always been passionate about science, so pharmacy seemed to be a perfect fit for me. 

I undertook my undergraduate at the University of East Anglia between 2006 and 2010 and completed my pre-registration year in 2011. As I worked part-time as a counter assistant in community during my degree I wanted to take the opportunity to increase my experience in hospital pharmacy. 

At the end of my pre-registration year I reached a dichotomy: I loved the healthcare and clinical aspects but was starting to miss the core science that I covered during my undergraduate. I therefore decided to pursue a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry entitled ‘Targeting the p53/MDM2 protein-protein interaction’ at the University of East Anglia. 

During my PhD I was fortunate to present my research both at National and International Congress as well as publish two papers on my areas of research. The PhD was incredibly tough but really enabled me to hone my research skills and independent thinking, as well as critical appraisal and presentation skills. I had, however, realised that bench-side research was not the career for me long-term, as I missed the patient focus and a more structured lifestyle. 

I graduated from my PhD in 2016 and decided to locum in community pharmacy/private hospital pharmacy for some time, which gave me the fantastic opportunities to travel and volunteer overseas. Whilst this served me well for some time, I found myself once again missing the core science and the scientific discussions that I had during my PhD. 

Finally, it was by some stroke of luck that I discovered the MSL role: I was well aware of pharmaceutical representatives, but had never come across this role, which I initially interpreted as field-based medicines information (but have subsequently learned and experienced that there is so much more to it!).  

I have now been an MSL for about 2.5 years and for me it really has been the best job that I have had: I work an area, have a fair degree of autonomy in my work, I am still heavily involved in the science of our products and able to have conversations with key opinion leaders within my therapeutic field. 

Parallels between sectors

Communication skills are VITAL in this role: whilst the nature of the interactions that are had with healthcare professionals differ from what one would do in clinical roles (I am not working in the capacity of a healthcare professional here), being able to communicate scientific concepts, as well as empathise and help to problem-solve challenges that customers may have are absolutely key points of the role. 

A core understanding is also very useful in terms of internal discussions relating to adverse events or pharmacokinetics of products: my knowledge of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics has been able to permit me to engage in internal discussions relating to theoretical interactions or risks that could require mitigation. I also feel that this is strongly supported by research experience too! 

Transferable skills 

To be an MSL, it is vital to be able to critically appraise and present data, have an understanding of pharmaceutical calculations and be able to translate high-level science into training for the commercial teams as well as the clinical potentials. 

The pharmaceutical industry is also tightly regulated and has its own code of practice. Pharmacists are well-equipped to understand the professional decision making and behaviours of this code, which do have some overlap with the GPhC guidance 

If you work in community or hospital and want to get into industry, where do you start? 

For an MSL role, whilst a PhD is not always required many job adverts will request it. The discipline is less important, but in the minds of the recruiters shows that you will have had a strong experience in research, which as mentioned previously is very important for MSLs. 

Being able to demonstrate a background in the therapeutic area that you are applying for is useful. I used the fact that I had done a rotation in my current discipline when applying for my current role, which served in my favour.

Whilst I am an MSL and I truly love my role, there are many different career opportunities in pharma for pharmacists. These range from compliance to health outcomes, medical information to pharmacovigilance, to name but a few.

The longer that I am in post I would definitely say that knowledge of the NHS structure and challenges is becoming ever more important, particularly in terms of identifying customer needs and investigating if the pharmaceutical industry can support them in any way.  

Development opportunities 

There is a great opportunity to develop your skills and career both within your function (e.g. medical) and outside. Due to the wide variety of roles in pharma, training and development tends to encompass wider areas such as:

  • Presentation skills 
  • Pharmaceutical calculations 
  • ABPI code of practice upskilling 
  • Project management 
  • Critical appraisal 
  • Stakeholder engagement 
  • Coaching 

What I like about the pharmaceutical industry is that there are numerous opportunities to develop and upskill depending on what you would like to achieve. I have had a great deal of support from my colleagues and mentors regarding development. 

Much of the training is web-based and you are expected to complete in your own time, however there are also face-to-face trainings that are usually organised around company congresses. As part of my continuing professional development, revalidation and faculty portfolios, I utilise all of these opportunities, as well as my learnings that I get through attending external congresses.

For more information about opportunities in pharmaceutical society, check our website.

You Can Make a Trans Person’s Day

By Matt Ellison (public speaker)

You may be surprised as to how much benefit you as a pharmacist can bring to the psychological and emotional well-being of trans people. One simple way is by knowing the correct name and pronouns to use. This can enable you to make the difference between a traumatic experience and a truly uplifting one.

As a child I developed several coping mechanisms to deal with the many difficult situations that came up for me. One of these was around being gendered female. I would reason with myself. For example, I remember one occasion, I was thirsty and wanted to buy a can of coke. I told myself “It doesn’t matter right now if I’m male or female, or whether the shop assistant calls me Sir, Madam, he or she. They’re only words and they make no difference to my ability to buy a can of coke and quench my thirst.”

These thoughts helped me cope! But in reality this is far from how it works. Those words may seem small and unimportant, but to a trans person they have a far more impactful and significant meaning than most people could ever contemplate. Psychologically there’s a vast burden of triggers attached to those words. Imagine how you feel when you’re having a bad day; it doesn’t take much for other things to also get on top of you. And for a trans person, every time an incorrect pronoun or name is used it’s a stabbing reminder of the many things that just aren’t right for them in life. It has the potential to bring up any of the hundreds of negative feelings often experienced around living in the wrong identity. This can trigger or enhance feelings of dysphoria or depression, particularly if they’re having a bad day already. And if they experience self-harm or suicidal tendencies it can enhance these too.

Passing & Outing

So as you can see being gendered correctly is important; ‘Passing’ and ‘outing’ are big issues for many or most trans people. Passing means being taken for one’s acquired gender. Outing means having one’s birth gender revealed in some public way. Remember that trans people have a legal right not to be outed.

Hormones, of course, play a huge role in successful gender transition, particularly when it comes to passing. Estrogen and testosterone produce the secondary sex characteristics that naturally occur at puberty. This can include fat redistribution and body shape, growth of breasts, facial hair, and a change in muscle mass and a breaking voice. To many trans people, it’s these changes that are the essence of transition. And these hormones need to be taken life long. So it’s inevitable that contact between trans patients and pharmacists will occur regularly.

In the pharmacy

At least initially, you may meet a trans person collecting their prescription with a name and gender marker that doesn’t match their outward appearance. These can be nerve-wracking experiences for a trans person. In their day-to-day life they may be frequently misgendered and/or outed, not only by their appearance but sometimes also because the people they’re interacting with say the wrong things – often unknowingly, but unfortunately sometimes intentionally too. This may be in a chemist, shop, or waiting area, full of strangers who can overhear.

Even if the trans person fully passes in their acquired gender, it often happens that they’re misgendered and/or outed in front of others, simply because the person dealing with them is untrained or has no experience of the difficulties transgender people face. And telephone conversations may be upsetting, if the trans person needs to identify themselves as the person on the prescription or account and their voice doesn’t seem to match.

While in transition, trans people may be more sensitive and vulnerable. Although suicide and self-harm rates are reported to be high within the trans community, it’s been shown these rates fall back into the range for the general population after successful transition. And, aside from medical intervention, what really helps to make transition successful is how the trans person is perceived and treated by those around them.

So what can you do?

As we’ve seen, names and pronouns matter a lot. Always try to use the name and, importantly, the pronouns (like she, he, her, him, or them and they for gender neutral) for the gender on the patient’s records. If in any doubt, discreetly ask the patient how they’d like to be addressed. If they ask to be called something specific (it may be different from what’s on their records), then go with that. It can do so much good to remember the delicate situation of the trans person and make that extra effort to be sensitive and tactful.

It’s inevitable that mistakes happen, but if this does occur, the best way to respond is to simply correct yourself and continue without making a fuss. By over-apologising it only makes it a bigger deal, with more people overhearing, and generally makes things worse.

And imagine how amazing it feels to be gendered correctly!

Just as being outed or misgendered can trigger very negative emotions, so each small experience of passing and being gendered correctly can have the very opposite effect. It can trigger very positive emotions, especially if early on in transition.

I remember clearly an occasion early in my transition. Standing in a queue, I could hear the shop assistant saying “Sir” or “Madam” to each person he served. I excitedly realised this was a great opportunity to test whether I passed yet. As my turn to be served came I boldly walked to the counter and expectantly waited to hear how he would gender me.

On this occasion he was clearly not sure as he didn’t gender me at all, with no use of either sir or madam. Which I guess was better than being gendered female, and was certainly a step in the right direction. But imagine my delight the very first time someone did call me sir, or used my new name Matt.

Having had some quite negative experiences with healthcare professionals along my journey, it would have made a huge difference to me for a pharmacist to be aware of the difficulties that we as trans people face. To have an encounter handled sensitively and correctly not only validates me as a human being, it also creates positive feelings, it shows this is a person who understands and is knowledgeable, but ultimately and most importantly, shows me this is someone I can trust. You really can make a huge difference!

To find out more about Matt’s work or to book him for a talk go to:

www.mattellison.co.uk

www.twitter.com/mattespeaker

For more blogs from Matt: www.mattellison.co.uk/blog/

Social media – let’s make it a force for good.

Social media use is always under scrutiny.

Whether it’s the amount of screen time children should have or whether vloggers should be encouraging gambling, the public’s mood seems to be in favour of more regulation, accountability and transparency.

We are fast approaching RPS elections time! We want everyone to enjoy the experience of being part of the elections, whether as a candidate or as voter, so we will do our best to encourage friendly and professional discussion.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be ‘re-releasing’ our social media guidance in bite size chunks. We’ll be encouraging members standing for election to campaign via social media, online forums and blogs. We know this is a great way to reach and engage with voters. If you’re standing for election this year, we will send you specific guidance to help.

The best advice I’ve ever received about testing whether something is suitable to be shared on social media or not is: “If you wouldn’t say it in the ‘real world’, don’t say it in the ‘digital world’.

We love a robust but polite debate. Read more Social media – let’s make it a force for good.

400 years of the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis

 By Karen Horn, RPS Librarian

December 2018 sees the 400-year anniversary of the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis (second issue).  We are lucky enough to have a copy in the RPS Library’s early printed collection.  Produced by the Royal College of Physicians, it was the first authoritative, standard pharmacopoeia for the whole of England – Scotland and Ireland later producing their own.

It lists all the drugs authorised for use by the Physicians. These include the stomach lining of hens, used as an astringent, and opium.  Preparations of opium are still in use today.

Signs and symbols

The title page of this Pharmacopoeia is fascinating.  Rich with symbols of power, the Tetragrammaton, Hebrew for God, appears on a cloud from which a hand reaches out to hold the coat of arms of James VI of Scotland/I England.

The College of Physicians’ own coat of arms is situated alongside four important figures who influenced the development of medicine: Galen, Avicenna, Hippocrates and Mesue. The presence of all these images is no coincidence: they emphasise the authority of the College of Physicians.

As interesting as the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis is in its own right, there’s something about our volume which makes it all the more exciting.

 

Sir William Paddy and ‘Principis Ferdinandi’


Discovered in Brussels in 1955, our copy contains handwritten notes contemporary to the period in which it was published.  The majority of these are headed ℞ for ‘Recipe’ or prescription.  Further notes in French include instructions for the dispensing of certain medicines and their uses.

It also includes the name of William Paddy in a handwritten inscription at the foot of the title page.  Sir William Paddy was born in 1554 and was President of the College of Physicians in 1618.  As a Fellow, he is likely to have been involved with its production.  He was also physician to James I.

Paddy is not the only prominent name in the inscription. Whilst the ink has faded in some places, the name ‘Principis Ferdinandi’ is also legible alongside it.  So, who was ‘Principis Ferdinandi’?  The most obvious candidate would seem to be  Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor (1578-1637), although Ferdinand of Bavaria (1577-1650) might also be a contender.  To complicate matters further, a third individual seems to be mentioned, but much of his name is now illegible.  The inscription tells us that our copy of the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis was presented as a gift … but by whom, to whom?

We may never know for certain whose hand wrote the notes and inscription. We will certainly never know all the secrets this volume holds of its journey from London to Brussels and back again.

If you can shed any light on the mystery surrounding our copy of the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis, we would love to hear from you. If you would like to book an appointment to see this and other pharmacopoeias in our early printed collection, please email library@rpharms.com.

 

Learning from failures of care at Gosport

Catherine Picton, Professional Secretary, RPS Hospital Expert Advisory Group

At least 450 patients are thought to have died after the administration of inappropriately high doses of opioids between 1988 and 2000 at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. In June 2018 the report of the Gosport Independent Panel into failures of care was published.

Like many reading the report I was shocked. Most sobering was that this practice remained unchallenged for a prolonged period of time, despite initial concerns being raised by relatives of patients and nursing staff, and prescribing being outside accepted good practice.

Read more Learning from failures of care at Gosport

Have you had your flu vaccine yet?

By Paul Bennett , RPS CEO

I recently had my seasonal flu vaccination – have you had yours?

This is something I do every year. Not only to protect myself, but also my family, my colleagues and people I come into contact with who may be vulnerable. It’s a very sensible precaution because influenza can have a devastating impact if it takes hold. While we often think of flu as something little more than a bad cold, it has a legacy of tragedy behind it. Read more Have you had your flu vaccine yet?

My career journey at Roche

By Ciara O’Brien, Medical Manager at Roche

 

There are many parallels that can be drawn between sectors of Pharmacy because as Pharmacy professionals, we all must adhere to the same standards of conduct. For me, this has meant seeking out and building on the core concepts in my day job – wherever that has been – to develop transferable skills that allow me to confidently bring the value of a pharmacist to any role. In particular, the quality, safety and regulation of medicines speaks to the Pharmacist role of medicines expert and the provision of optimised pharmaceutical based care with the patient at the centre.

I began my career with my GPhC registration from a community pre-reg and no idea what roles were available to me in the Pharmaceutical Industry but a desire to work there. I used job sites online and this lead to my first role at Roche as a Drug Safety Associate. I was able to demonstrate the core competencies and skills I had gained on the MPharm degree and from community practice in the interview. Having the pharmacy qualification meant I could transfer skills from clinical checks of prescriptions to medical review of adverse event cases. Read more My career journey at Roche

Chris’s Peer Discussion Blog

As I get older I think I’m becoming more last minute.com. I recently zapped my CPD records to the General Pharmaceutical Council – just in time for 31 October deadline.  Perhaps I should be more compare the supermarket.com?  Now I have revalidated for 2018 my mygphc.org account has re-set to what I need to do in the next 12 months. There are new things to think about.

I work at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) as Head of Workforce Development looking at the standards, guidance, and policies that will develop our profession. Having been involved in the RPS approach to supporting its members with revalidation I thought I should write a blog about my own journey with staying on the register.  Each month I will cover different aspects of a new additional way us pharmacists have to keep our knowledge and skills up-to-date – the peer discussion.  The what, who, where and how. Read more Chris’s Peer Discussion Blog