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Pharmacy Careers
NHS Health Education England

Stephen Cook - Chief Pharmacist

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Meet Stephen, a Chief Pharmacist who tells us all about his role and why he chose pharmacy as a career.

Transcript

00:54:25:04 [Speaker 1]: I'd be very comfortable taking my mask off. Um, one of the advantages of being the, being the boss and having your own office is that you can sit in your own office without a mask on. So every time I have to go somewhere else, I have to put the mask back on.  

00:54:37:03 [Speaker 2]: Okay. So I'm just going to tell you a bad joke.  

00:54:41:09 [Speaker 1]: A lot of cats  

00:54:42:20 [Speaker 2]: She's really good. She knows. What does the fish say when he swings into a wall?  

00:54:52:11 [Speaker 1]: I don't know. What does the fish say when he swims into  

00:54:54:17 [Speaker 2]: Down? Okay. That was good. That was good. One. We need to do one bad joke. Yeah. Okay. Jason, you're rolling. Can we get a clap? Sorry, Jason, just going to come in, give you a set of first thing 

00:55:32:12 we'll ask you is an easy one. Just tell us your name and your role.  

00:55:37:13 [Speaker 1]: My name's Steve cook. I'm the chief pharmacist for midway hospital.  

00:55:41:20 [Speaker 2]: Okay. And just to start with, we're asking everyone the same question. What frustrates you the most about how the general public misunderstand pharmacy?  

00:55:54:02 [Speaker 1]: I think the general public's perception of pharmacy is that they see a community pharmacist working in a shop setting. And very few people recognize that the pharmacy has a much broader profession that works in healthcare settings and works through different areas of society.  

00:56:11:06 [Speaker 2]: You're good at this. I'm ready to tell why did you choose bombs?  

00:56:15:04 [Speaker 1]: That's a very good question. Now I started with an interest at school, in the science subjects. So I was maths, chemistry, biology sort of person. And when you started looking around at careers, I'd also had a link in with our local pharmacist again in a community shop, uh, and going into that shop with all of the potions bear in mind, this was probably in the early seventies. So very different place to where they are now. Um, but it did mean that it was always interesting. There's always something going on in that pharmacy shop, anything from chemicals to, to 

00:56:48:11 tablets and a bustle of it. And it was a lively place to be  

00:56:54:17 [Speaker 1]: Well, for me, I think it's, it's about looking for a job where I can find something that I enjoy doing as a subject areas, as such a topic. That means interesting. Um, but also that I want to do something where I can make a difference.  

00:57:10:21 [Speaker 2]: How'd you feel you make a difference in the world?  

00:57:14:08 [Speaker 1]: Um, it's it's about, um, coming into work and, and feeling that, uh, you've, you've managed to achieve something for the, in our, our hospital people in our society. It's about being able to ensure that our staff are in the best place to be able to make their contribution to improving healthcare.  

00:57:36:01 [Speaker 2]: What do you find yourself doing day to day in your role as the chief folks?  

00:57:39:21 [Speaker 1]: Um, well, I suppose as the chief pharmacist, I have a range of responsibilities because I'm responsible for how the pharmacy service operates throughout the trust, but also how it portrays to the outside world. Um, particularly in Medway, uh, I have a couple of additional responsibilities that are statutory. So I'm the controlled drugs, accountable officer. I'm also responsible for how medical gases are used in the trust because medical gases, glasses medicines, but essentially I'm responsible for all of the way that medicines are managed throughout the trust. Now that works down from the inside the pharmacy bit, which is 

00:58:12:04 about, um, procurement of medicines, safe storage, distribution, and supply. And that distribution can be through our dispensary, or we have some specialists distribution areas or sorry, specialist dispensing areas where we manufacture aseptic products for patients who have a need for chemotherapy. So typically in cancer patients often neonates young babies who are perhaps premature, who needs some, um, parental nutrition to ensure that they're, they're able to thrive. There's a whole range of different 

00:58:41:16 supply elements, but I think the other really important thing for pharmacy and the way pharmacy works in a hospital trust is that we have responsibility to make sure that the medicines used are safe cost-effective and clinically effective. So the vast majority of our pharmacy staff, I would expect to be out on the wards, interacting with the hospital medical staff and with the nurses to ensure that the patient's treatment is what we're expecting those patients to have, or we're looking at the best treatment for those patients.  

00:59:09:23 [Speaker 2]: What in there do you, do you kind of enjoy the most or find the most rewarding  

00:59:15:05 [Speaker 1]: For me, it's about, um, part of leading a team. I've got a well well-motivated keen interested team, and that's a really satisfying thing because I think my role is as the leader of that team is to make sure that they're empowered to do their jobs properly, that they have proper development pathway and that they can contribute to the best way they can with their skill sets. In particularly in pharmacy, we have a whole range of staff that work here. You don't just think about pharmacists. We actually have pharmacists, we have pharmacy technicians and we have pharmacy assistants and they're roughly split a third each. And 

00:59:49:06 they have different career pathways, different routes in and different capabilities once they're qualified, but they all fit into part of that bigger team. I also actually have a nurse who's responsible to me as part of a separate project, looking at diabetes in our local health community. So we have a wide variety of staff and we have a wide variety of access points for, uh, engagement and development.  

01:00:10:14 [Speaker 2]: Do you feel pharmacy gets the best out of you?  

01:00:15:14 [Speaker 1]: That's a very good question. Now, does pharmacy get the best out of me? I hope to. I hope they will. I would like to think that the pharmacy does, um, I'm generally quite a, um, an open, easily approachable person, but the thing for me is about getting all of our staff working in the same direction and a bit when you go home at the end of the day is you look at some of your proudest moments and you think actually that's because we're working as a really effective team. I've got a high-performing team. You know, we went through the COVID pandemic, you know, waves one and two, and very early on made the decision that we need 

01:00:48:19 to continue with award based pharmacy service, because it meant that it kept our patients safe, but then put all of our staff at a level of personal risk. Um, but they all stepped up and they said, yes, this is the right thing to do. We want to do it. And it may be a very proud chief pharmacist to see how they, they work and how they put the needs of our patients first.  

01:01:10:11 [Speaker 2]: And that sounds like the sort of rewarding moment.  

01:01:14:23 [Speaker 1]: Yeah, it is. Yeah, absolutely. It's a really rewarding way of, uh, of working it's, uh, partly as it's a case of giving those people the opportunity to do what they know is the right thing. And I just feel that my role as a leader is to facilitate that happen.  

01:01:31:15 [Speaker 2]: Yeah, that's pretty good. I'm already editing this.  

01:01:35:04 [Speaker 1]: Yeah, I suppose again, the whole part of the leadership in pharmacy and my role is to make sure that we have very clear strategy about where we're going and what we're doing and that all of our staff has signed up to that strategy and working towards it.  

01:01:50:22 [Speaker 2]: Is there, do you feel like pharmacies taught you anything about you as a person, the journey you've been on this, it kind of surprised you in any way, what you've been able to do. Yeah.  

01:02:04:23 [Speaker 1]: The journey from pharmacy, I think, you know, as a newly qualified pharmacist, you come out of university with all sorts of ideas about, um, how you're going to run your career, which of course never goes to plan. Um, but I did work fairly early on into, uh, into the clinical side of pharmacy work. So I was very ward based. And the thing that that really motivated me was being able to make a difference to individuals. So on a daily basis, I'd be up on the wards, interacting with our, our medics, our nurses, um, and looking at how we can improve care for 

01:02:35:19 patients and whether that's individual, patient counseling or teaching people about how to use devices. But that was a real bus. That was really good. Um, beyond that, on the next sort of career progression was to say, well, if I can get that from doing it on a one-to-one basis, I get, um, a good return on, on being able to do that for lots of people. So actually then if you run a service, then you can ensure that that service runs in the way that, that gives you that same sort of ideals and ethics about how 

01:03:04:08 you deliver, deliver what patients need.  

01:03:09:02 [Speaker 2]: What do you kind of hang on to it? Because healthcare is quite a challenging arena for anyone to work. And yeah. So is there anything that you hang on to that keeps you going in some of those harder moments, little more challenging scenarios?  

01:03:23:13 [Speaker 1]: Um, I think it's, um, it tends to be around personal experience and, and families. So I have a large family, um, and my family has always had access to good healthcare. And I also came from an area around Medway. So I grew up around midway. So a lot of my, um, my relatives, certainly my parents and siblings had access through the system in Medway hospital and in our local area. Um, and I think knowing that our 

01:03:53:20 hospital is here for the needs of the local community and I'm part of that local community is a really important thing and really important consideration.  

01:04:03:09 [Speaker 2]: Okay. And just lastly, what do you feel like your mission statement is as a pharmacist, as a kind of representative of what you do?  

01:04:15:22 [Speaker 1]: That's a very good question. Um, I think the important thing about, about being a pharmacist is that ability to make a difference it's to come in every day and do something that changes somebody's life and even in the smallest way and provides that level of level of benefit or improvement in the way they can look after themselves and their health. Um, and I think it's about, um, the, the real issues, um, that people are facing on a day to day basis about particularly 

01:04:49:04 when we're going through through, um, pandemics, you know, I've recently been operating with the trust and setting up our vaccination center and I'm working with our ops manager. We have created a really efficient slick service and, uh, vaccinate over 20,000 people. And that has a huge impact on the way our community works. It means that we're on that roadmap to get our society back together as well. So that's a real benefit for, for 

01:05:15:00 pharmacy involvement elsewhere in, in health, health, um, delivery.  

01:05:19:05 [Speaker 2]: Oh, you're just pressing it then really quite surprised at how diverse pharmacy actually is just from being submerged in it for just a couple of weeks.  

01:05:29:23 [Speaker 1]: And I completely agree with your pharmacy is a very diverse, um, profession and pharmacy has, um, tendrils, if you like in all sorts of different areas of healthcare, you know, we talk always about within hospital pharmacy. It's not just about how we interact with patients. It's how we interact with the medical staff, how we ensure that that medicines are used effectively, that we get the best value out of them. But it's how we also do work on training and development on both of our, our other healthcare professionals. So nurses and doctors, and we 

01:06:00:08 spend a lot of time, um, out on the wards doing that.  

01:06:05:01 [Speaker 2]: I could talk to you all day. I can tell you live, they briefed and stuff. I have to leave a day just for time or should have a little time to talk. Yeah, that's really good.  01:06:15:12 [Speaker 1]: You're A good person to be a chief pharmacist. Great. Yeah. So I think you're free to go now. Excellent. Good. Is there anything else we can do for you? We need to interview Vicky, Vicky, I'll go and find the key and then, uh, let you go with Steven. Yep.

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