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Pharmacy Careers
NHS Health Education England

Sue Ladds - Regional Chief Pharmacist

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Regional Chief Pharmacist, Sue shares her day-to-day life of the role and her experiences of a career in pharmacy.

Transcript

00:00:00:11 [Speaker 1]: Um, I've started the recording. Lovely. Okay. I'm going to hide again. Thank you, Jake. Okay. Well, hopefully fingers crossed. See, won't let us down. Um, you were telling us too about the, the more personal rewards of what you do, the, the kind of thrill of rising to a challenge, being able to meet a challenge and then to kind of push yourself beyond your own expectations, that those different stages of your career. Um, would that be all right for you to sort of 

00:00:34:06 describe to us what that feels like that process?  

00:00:39:22 [Speaker 2]: And so I've lost my stride. I, what, can you ask me the question that you asked me the first time around,  

00:00:48:02 [Speaker 1]: Rather than what I said? Sorry, just be too much information. Um, so I asked you, um, could you describe the personal rewards of the work that you're doing?  

00:01:04:06 [Speaker 2]: So, so what I get out of pharmacy in terms of my personal rewards, uh, um, I, I really love a challenge and a problem to solve. Um, and I get a lot of that in my, in my role and I always have done through my career. So that would start off, um, being what meant into advise on how to advise a doctor, how to help a patient manage them at those different challenges. And then I would see something, um, in terms of 

00:01:35:09 how a service worked or, um, a process that could be done better and I'd want to sort of have, find a way to resolve that problem and make something better. So, and I get a lot of personal reward about seeing something that I've done make a difference, um, for other people. So I've always, you know, when I've progressed in my leadership journey, if you like through my career, it's been because I've seen a bigger problem or a bigger issue that 

00:02:07:12 I want to get stuck into sorting out.  

00:02:10:11 [Speaker 2]: Um, and, and that's where I get my reward for being able to a difference on a bigger and bigger scale, and being able to see the impact that that has. And there isn't a day or a week that goes by, um, even after 27 years of being a pharmacist where I don't come across something new, um, something else to learn another challenge to solve another issue that needs that needs sorting out. So that's where I get my 

00:02:41:02 reward, and I'm really proud of some of the things that I've done over my career and seeing the difference that I've made. And, and I've been in this regional role for a year now. And, and it's really, it's all been about the COVID pandemic and the vaccination program. And part of what I've been doing is, is having a leadership role in rolling out the vaccination across the Southeast. So I've really been able to see the difference that I've 

00:03:10:17 made and making sure that we can get that vaccine to as many people as possible, um, as part of my role. And that's really rewarding.  

00:03:21:22 [Speaker 1]: That's fantastic. Thank you so much. We definitely covered those, those important things that you've said it was previously. Um, I wonder, cause we've, we've mentioned COVID, um, we can talk a little bit about that in the particular challenges of this past year, year and a half, um, which has been yeah, really kind of unique for a lot of people. Um, but I wonder if there's any sort of particular stories, anything that we could put in, um, to capture that sense of if those positive rewards it 

00:03:56:00 might be from the times when you were working back into the hospital days, as well as a bit more recently, if there's any particular instances you could give us kind of examples that we can drop into the film. Um, right. Um,  

00:04:17:00 [Speaker 2]: It's difficult to think of examples that might, that might inspire somebody to want to become if I'm honest. Um, so I think some of the things that, um, in the beginning, uh, during the early stages of the pandemic, um, there were lots of uncertainties. I was working in the hospital then, um, and the people who were working in the hospital, the pharmacy staff working in hospital, not severe anxiety and really worried about what it was going to mean for them, where they at risk, where their 

00:04:49:09 family is at risk by them coming into the hospital. And how is it safe for them to work and how wasn't it and what should they, and shouldn't they do. Um, but there was also the challenge of, you know, that we had, um, sick patients in the hospital who needed our services as well. And we couldn't sort of just stop. Um, so I think that time was particularly challenging. Um, sorry, I forgot to turn it off again. That's all right. No worries. I 

00:05:26:14 actually worked for teams, but the teams chat, even though I've closed teams, I've still got a teams chat coming up. I'm just going  

00:05:33:00 [Speaker 1]: To, um, Hmm. You might need to log out to that. Cause sometimes it does sort of hover in the background and if people put something in the chat or message, it will kind of pop up the chat. Oh, wonderful. Thank you.  

00:05:50:13 [Speaker 2]: Chat on that stream. Anyway, someone else might start chatting along with that. Um, so yes, in that situation where, you know, anxious, anxious workforce, um, and patients still needing our help and coming to a balance and, and so many unknowns where it was hard to provide that, um, reassured the answers that everybody wanted in terms of what they should and shouldn't do. So I think what we did there in terms of 

00:06:21:07 the, the, the management and the leadership team within the department is, is just half those we're about three or four times a day. We were getting together and having the, having the chats together and saying, okay, what have you found out? Who have you been talking to? What have you learned putting our heads together and coming up with, um, uh, something that we thought was the right thing in the best interest of, uh, of our staff and our patients, and then having those regular communications to share that so 

00:06:51:16 that everybody felt reassured, um, around what, around what we were doing and how we were working.  

00:06:58:02 [Speaker 2]: And of course everything was changing. Um, so sort of day by day, there will be different advice and different guidance and changing. So, uh, the, the real thing there, the value was working together with each other and listening to what people needed and providing that, um, I guess that reassuring presence, um, that, that somebody was, was looking out for things and, um, working out what was the best way to act and how 

00:07:28:13 they were going to be kept safe, um, as they went about their, about their work. That was, that was kind of my experience in the hospital. It was really to be able to keep services running. There were patients who were coming in with COVID really needed as well as the others, but also to make sure it was safe for the staff and to reassure them and look after their wellbeing needs while we were, while we were doing that. Um, and then I guess in my new role, so I moved into my new role in may and in May, 2020, 

00:08:04:04 and things were just starting to come out of the wave, one of the pandemic, and we had a couple of months of breathing space, and then we went into the next wave. And, but then it was all about the vaccination program and planning for that. So I think just the, um, sorry I forgotten what the question was. I've lost track. What was the question?  

00:08:28:15 [Speaker 1]: No, that's perfect. You just, yeah, you're just telling us, um, you know, about the particular challenges, the unique challenges of COVID and it just, I mean, it's, it's huge, isn't it? We certainly don't want to sort of just give like the totally rosy view of, of the profession actually it's difficult and this past year and a half has been really taxing on people. So I think it's important for us to include those stories as well. So it's not just like, oh, farmer seems, everything will be lovely and rosy and gorgeous know it's, it's impacting, sorry, I 

00:09:04:02 cut you off.  

00:09:06:09 [Speaker 2]: I think the thing that we've found through the vaccination program, the COVID vaccination program is just how, um, pharmacists have really come into their own doing this and started to get a lot of respect and recognition for what they can contribute and what they do contribute. And because the vaccines have been such fragile project products that, um, um, people are unfamiliar with, um, and they've been, 

00:09:37:02 um, you know, manufactured quickly more quickly than, than usual, um, with all the relevant safety, but everything's been done faster, the same rigorous process, but just faster. Um, and people are unfamiliar with them and they have to be handled very carefully. And pharmacists have been there in every single vaccination service advising, um, how the service should be set up helping to make sure it's safe, making sure that all the processes, 

00:10:09:16 um, are going to keep the vaccines safe and keep people safe and make sure that we've got enough vaccine to go round the most high-risk people. So there's been a real for me in my role and the other leaders, um, around those services, it's been a balance of thinking about what is best for maybe an individual person and balancing that against what is best for the 

00:10:37:10 whole population. Um, so that's been a new, not a new challenge, I guess, but it's been more prominent challenge when we've had restricted supplies of vaccine and thinking about how to make the best use of that, um, in the most effective way. So pharmacists with the been recognized for their role during the program, and that feels, it feels good. It feels like, um, we're, we're sort of seen in the same regard if you like, as the doctors and the nurses who've been involved in the delivery. Um, so that's been 

00:11:10:17 really rewarding as well to see that,  

00:11:15:05 [Speaker 1]: And this is, this is something that's been really interesting to me, how pharmacy has been quite rapidly changing. I've been hearing this from some other people about how the public perception of pharmacy has also shifted quite dramatically under COVID. Um, I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about how the reality of pharmacy differs from the way, you know, most people assume pharmacy is handing out medications, but if we could sort of go into actually the reality of what 

00:11:45:22 it's like and, and the diversity of roles within pharmacy that most people, again, just before I started this project, I had no idea I've learned so much talking to people. Yeah.  

00:11:58:17 [Speaker 2]: So I think, I think most people think of the pharmacist, um, as the, um, the man in the white coat in the, in the chemist shop, um, giving out the medicine, but, um, it tends to be what you see on the, on the TV and that that's all people have seen and that's all they know, but actually pharmacy has a really diverse range of careers. And, um, some pharmacies have, have moved through all sorts of different roles in their career path. Um, so, you know, my, my career path was as a 

00:12:34:08 hospital pharmacist and then moving more gradually into a man becoming a manager and a leader, but always part of the NHS. But there are, of course you got pharmacist roles within pharmaceutical industry and the manufacturing industry. And there are roles in planning services services, 

00:12:53:19 as well as being a pharmacist on the frontline providing those services.  

00:12:59:17 [Speaker 2]: So there's a real variety. And I, and I think, um, one of the things that particularly interested me the time we've tapped through micro is, is around the workforce development and planning. So around education and training. So there are some really good roles in terms of education and training and developing people. There are roles around what we call governance, which is around making things, making sure the processes are safe, um, and having the appropriate quality controls and 

00:13:30:06 assurance on processes and things. And then there are sort of information services so that whether you like it, a desk job or being out and about doing things and walking around all the time and whether you want to be talking to the public and patients, or whether you want to be sitting in the back office, that there's something for you, whether you're very technically minded or more, much more people focused, there is a role that you can do within pharmacy. And I think lots of people don't realize that that breadth and, and, and 

00:14:03:11 some people start out maybe in a hospital or in a community pharmacy in that public facing world. And they find that it doesn't really suit them. And so there are so many other roles that they can move into and the same, you know, vice versa, people who may be start thinking that's not what they want to do, but actually when they try it, they really love it. Um, because you do get a lot of rewarded on an individual basis from, um, you know, 

00:14:30:01 whether it's, whether it's a patient understanding their medicines for the first time, or being able to change something that's been bothering them for years and years, but they've never been brave enough to say, um, to somebody that there's, some people find that, that, you know, that is really rewarding and they stay in that clinical role as well. But there are, there are so many roles. And I think, I think even, you know, in hospitals, people don't think about hospital pharmacies as when they think of pharmacists. They usually think of the, the high street chemist, but 

00:15:01:17 that can be a really rewarding career too.  

00:15:07:07 [Speaker 1]: That's really helpful. Thank you so much. It's really useful for us to have a sense of the breadth and the range of things that are possible for people to specialize in. And I think that's a really strong message that wherever you're at, if you're more technical, if you're more people focused, if you're, you know, maybe more academic, you can go down a different route. There's, there's something for everyone in the profession. I think that's a really powerful take home for people who are considering a career. Um, I wondered if we could ask you about your, your 

00:15:39:22 vision for the future or pharmacy, because things have shifted so much under COVID and there's lots of potential there, you know, be as broad and as big as you like. And think if you were talking to, you know, a room full of like a hundred eighteen, nineteen, twenty year olds, and you want it to really get them inspired and thinking this, you know, the sky's the limit here, what would be your kind of fishing for, for the future of the 

00:16:08:12 profession?  

00:16:11:16 [Speaker 2]: So I think the future of pharmacy is really bright at the moment, even more so than it has been before. We've, we've seen, um, a real growth in and respect for the profession through the, um, COVID pandemic, um, that was opened up a lot more opportunities for us. Um, and we're also seeing, you know, over the last couple of years, a real growth in clinical roles for pharmacy professionals, particularly, um, supporting 

00:16:44:24 GP practices, um, in their care individual care for patients. So we've always traditionally had to community pharmacy and hospital pharmacy, but now we're seeing a lot more clinical roles. And of course we have a lot more pharmacists to our prescribers and taking on responsibility for patient care alongside doctors. And I think the profession now has become equal in standing to, to doctors and nurses as a pharmacist it's, it's 

00:17:13:04 recognized. Um, and there's so many, there are always new medicines coming out all the time.  

00:17:20:13 [Speaker 2]: So there's always something to learn and the other people will need help with and really, really complex medicines now, um, that, uh, you know, genetically, um, produced and, and have real massive life-changing impact on people and their health. So to be able to be involved in that and be part of that is really quite exciting. And we're also seeing a lot more roles in research for pharmacy as well. So the real 

00:17:50:19 cutting edge of finding those new medicines, that work, um, and understanding how we can, how we can make that bigger difference. So I think it's really exciting. I think we'll see pharmacy getting even stronger, um, and more and more different roles.  

00:18:10:07 [Speaker 1]: That's fantastic. Thank you so much. It does give you a sense that this is a really exciting profession. There's so many different things going on so much innovation going on in pharmacy. Things are rapidly changing, which it feels like a really exciting time to be coming in and coming up in the profession. Um, I wonder this is again, like a little bit sort of abstract, I suppose. Um, but this might give us a route into thinking about, um, the next generation and supporting the next generation. Um, I wonder if you could say something to your younger self, 

00:18:47:18 knowing what you know now to kind of encourage you when you might've had a moment thinking of, gosh, is this for me? Do I really want to go down this route? If you ever had a moment of sort of indecision, what would be the thing that you would say to yourself to really spare you on and to help you realize, you know, what you're going to, you're going to make it, you're going to become a leader. You're going to do all of these really 

00:19:11:08 interesting things like I'm not in there.  

00:19:17:06 [Speaker 2]: So I think what I would say to my younger self, when I think of myself just starting out in my pharmacy career is to be brave. Um, the, actually, as you know, your pharmacy training gives you a lot of knowledge and as, as you start to, um, to practice and you become a little bit more experienced, you develop more and more skills though. I would say to my youngest have to be brave, um, to use those skills, that knowledge 

00:19:51:20 and training that you've had, um, and push yourself, but, uh, to do more and, and don't doubt what you can do, but just go out there and, and, and do it and take it. Um, because I think probably my, maybe my career path was slowed down because I doubted that I could do it, but, but actually I could, I've proven to myself that I could. Um, but I didn't know it at the 

00:20:21:14 time thought, well, that's a bit complicated, but that's what I would say. I would say, be brave. Um, um, and to, and to, yeah, to make it to, if you can see something that needs doing to just get on and do it and go for it and be optimistic, but it'll work out. Okay. Cause it usually does.  

00:20:43:06 [Speaker 1]: That's really lovely and so warm as well. You know, if someone was watching this thinking, maybe they were struggling with their exams or something and thinking, gosh, I'm not smart enough. I'm not good enough. I really liked that message, that message of be brave and just really go for it, you know, push yourself, you know, develop those strengths and skills that are really needed. Um, I suppose the only other thing in the kind of addition to that would be to think is there, are there any kind of hurdles that you've encountered along the way that you've had 

00:21:15:18 to maneuver around, you know, find a way through, um, to get to the next level where you wanted to be, and if there's anything that kind of helped you at those moments of maybe a sense of feeling stuck or feeling like there was just something that you really wanted to change.  

00:21:36:24 [Speaker 2]: Yeah. So I think when I've sort of found myself feeling a bit stuck or, um, that something needed to change sometimes, um, I found the solution to that is that you need to, to learn something else, perhaps you've done everything you can do in a certain role. Um, and in order to, to move into something different, um, that will get you motivated again, you might need to learn something new. So there's some, there's 

00:22:07:21 something about taking on sort of opportunities as they crop up. Um, and even if they don't fit with exactly perhaps what you want to do or what you've done before, something that's a bit different can give you a new insight into, into some way you can move into and become remote motivated again, sometimes, um, as well, I've found that, um, things have just come to an end with a particular organization that I'm working for on what I needed to do was just switch jobs and switch to a different role, a 

00:22:38:14 different organization and start a fresh. And, and in terms of when you get to a certain level, in terms of senior leadership and management, you have to be brave enough to make the move between organizations and sometimes relocation to, to actually achieve that. Um, you can't expect everything to be sort of pandered to you very easily on a plate. You've got to go and seek it out and get it for yourself. Um, so there's that. And I think one of the other things I've 

00:23:13:04 lost my train of thought. Now it was about barriers, wasn't it? And, um, I think the, so the other thing I was going to say about you, any difficulties that I've had around career progression and things like that is, is obviously juggling the work-life balance. Um, and, and there, there is a perception and, and perhaps it's, it's real to a certain extent that 

00:23:39:08 the more senior you get, the harder you have to work, the more hours you have to put in, but there are ways of working smarter rather than harder.  

00:23:48:09 [Speaker 2]: And, you know, I have two children and I've, I've always worked. Um, and they are, you know, very happy, well adjusted young boys now or older boys now. Um, so, uh, yeah, I have two children and I do manage to fit my family and be a senior leader within the NHS, which is a demanding, um, job. Um, and it works and you can make it work. Um, and, um, yeah, there were lots of flexibilities as well. I think around the pharmacy 

00:24:19:16 careers that enable you to work, whether it's a family or whether it's a hobby or whether it's traveling or whatever it is that you like to do, you can fit that in, but you do have to make some adjustments to, to manage that. And so I think those can be barriers, um, but they don't, they don't need to be  

00:24:42:14 [Speaker 1]: Thank you. That's really helpful to get the sense of the flexibility. I think that's, that's important and the having some balance, and I love this idea of, you know, you don't have to work all gods hours, you can work smart and you can pick and choose and you can make her a good move at the right time. That feels really, um, important to, to add in there. Um, I guess, cause we're just approaching, um, the end of the time you've got, um, I suppose maybe the last thing I would ask you, do you 

00:25:15:14 have, um, a kind of greatest love about your career? Is there anything that kind of pops up about in your mind that you just think, God, I really love this. I'm just thinking of like the sort of short and snappy things we could put into the film that just says, yeah, I really love this about my job or this, that, that we could just sort of put in that. Uh, yeah.  

00:25:42:19 [Speaker 2]: So I think the thing that I love most about my job is seeing how I have helped other people being, um, maybe, uh, colleagues struggling with something. Um, and then I can do something that makes a, that makes it better for them or seeing a patient struggling and you can do something that makes their life easier.  

00:26:09:22 [Speaker 1]: That's awesome. Thank you so much. So I feel like we've got, we've got a lot of stuff there. We covered a lot of ground. I just wanted to check in with Jake. Um, we've been listening. Yeah, everything's good. Yeah, that was great. Yeah, everything's fine. This time I'm going to stop the recording now then. 

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