Being a board member – what I have learned so far

Paul Harris 150x150By Paul Harris, Welsh Pharmacy Board member and Wales External Relationships Lead for Boots UK

In June 2014, I was elected to the Welsh Pharmacy Board of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). One year on, I feel confident in my role but I remember well how I felt during the first weeks of my appointment: excited, curious, and a little apprehensive.

Fortunately, other board members helped us ‘newbies’ settle into our roles and we also benefited from a comprehensive induction. However, as is often the case with new roles, I did most of my learning ‘on the job’.

My advice to new board members is to contribute in board meetings from the outset and don’t worry too much if you are not familiar with all the issues on the agenda. I felt a bit overwhelmed initially by the wide range of issues discussed at board meetings.

Like me, you may find it hard at first to follow the twists and turns of discussions that have a long and complicated history but you will soon catch up and become accustomed to picking things up more quickly.

Rather than adopt a ‘listen and learn’ approach, as I did, consider pitching in as soon as possible, ideally at your first board meeting, by asking questions and offering opinions. This may help you settle into your new role more quickly.

Your opinion is no less valuable than board members who have been there for a while. Indeed, new board members can bring a fresh perspective that can challenge current thinking and help the boards see things in new, sometimes better, ways.

At times, the views of the board may conflict with your own personal views – that goes with the territory and something you will learn to manage – but you will feel better if at least you have voiced your opinion.

Make sure you have your say but it pays to be open-minded. You may have no prior knowledge of some issues, so it’s important to take the time to listen and reflect.

One of the advantages of being a board member is that it encourages you to think in a broader way about what is needed for the whole profession and not just the sector in which you work. One year on, I feel that being a board member is worthwhile, enabling me to make a positive contribution to my profession.

If you want to make a difference to pharmacy, consider standing for election to a national board of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

2015 National Pharmacy Board elections

Pharmaceutical Journal article on 2015 Welsh Pharmacy Board election