Treating mental health conditions at the NHS
Pharmacy graduate Sarah Jones tells us about her busy role as a clinical pharmacist for the NHS.
Without the firm grounding in clinical pharmacy I gained during my MSc, I wouldn’t have been able to take the path to becoming a clinical specialist.
I am a Specialist Clinical Pharmacist working for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.
Part of my role is in clinical practice where I work in a multidisciplinary team supporting patients with mental health difficulties.
I also have a leadership role, helping to assure and develop pharmacy services across the Trust.
Finding the right path
I initially chose pharmacy due to a desire for a healthcare career combined with a fascination as to how medicines work.
My decision to move into mental health came from a similar fascination for medicines to treat the massively complex range of mental health conditions, and the clinical, ethical and psychological issues that raises.
During my first qualified post as a rotational pharmacist at North Bristol NHS Trust, I had the opportunity to enrol on the University of Bath Diploma in Clinical Pharmacy Practice.
I also had the opportunity to work in the mental health unit onsite at Southmead Hospital, mentored by one of the mental health specialists.
I felt I had found my passion, and after I completed my diploma, I looked for a post at a specialist mental health trust.
Developing new skills
I moved to London to work for the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust in a post that allowed me to combine clinical practice and practice based research. It was in this role that I extended my diploma to an MSc.
As well as gaining valuable research skills, the MSc modules helped me to develop important project management experience.
In 2008, I returned to the South West to start work for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Trust.
Applying training to a diverse role
A key task of my clinical practice role is to make sure patients have access to safe and effective medication. I take part in meetings about appropriate treatment options and check the prescriptions that have been written. I am also available to answer patients’ questions about their medication.
In my leadership role, I review the safety of our medicine supply chains, looking at issues such as staffing levels and training, logistics, legal issues and record keeping. I also contribute to the Trust’s governance systems to ensure medicines are used to maximise clinical effectiveness and are in-line with the legal and regulatory requirements.
I love the variety of my job and working with colleagues from so many different backgrounds.
I take a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that everything I do makes a difference to patient care.
I also enjoy taking on new challenges as my role develops and the NHS changes. I hope to undertake the independent prescribing course in the near future and to develop my leadership and mentoring skills too.
My advice for students
Without the firm grounding in clinical pharmacy I gained during my MSc, I wouldn’t have been able to take the path to becoming a clinical specialist. The research part of the degree gave me confidence in project management, which is really important for working in the NHS in any type of management position.
You don’t always know what opportunities your postgraduate study will open up, and you will probably learn extra skills along the way that you hadn’t anticipated.
Take every opportunity to make connections with other students and with university staff. You’ll learn more and create possibilities for future collaboration.