Blog: why community pharmacy is a great profession for women in science

Shannon Kennedy is a community pharmacist in Northumberland, and was voted Well’s Pre-Reg of the Year in 2019. Several of the colleagues who nominated her described her as an inspiration and commented that they had “never known someone with so much passion and commitment.” To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Shannon told us about why she chose to work in community pharmacy, what she enjoys about her role and why this is a very exciting time for the sector.

“At GCSE level I knew I had a passion for sciences. I knew I wanted to work in a profession that is science based but also has a human touch. That’s why I decided to train as a pharmacist, because they are scientists and clinicians.

“To practice as a pharmacist, it is important to be thorough and have attention to detail, to work well under pressure, be sensitive and understanding and also have good customer service skills. These are qualities I believed I had. It is also important to have a good maths ability, as the day-to-day job includes calculating appropriate doses based on weight, age, body surface area and renal function, for example.

“I therefore decided to study chemistry, biology, psychology and sociology at A-level.

It takes five years to study to be a pharmacist. I studied for a Master of Pharmacy degree at Sunderland University and worked part time as a dispenser. I then completed my graduate pre-registration year with Well.

“In August 2020, I was entered onto the GPHC Pharmacy register at the age of 23. I am currently a practicing community pharmacist working for Well in a small town in Northumberland.

“My day-to-day job includes ensuring that prescriptions are both legal and clinically appropriate for the patient, considering their age, weight, comorbidities and other medication, to ensure patient safety. I then provide an accuracy check to ensure the medicine we provide is correct.

“Many patients look for advice from the pharmacy team and me about issues such as travel advice, minor ailments, herbal medicines, medicine supply issues and questions or concerns about upcoming procedures or appointments.

“I provide flu jabs, New Medicine Consultations and Medicine Use Reviews. This helps to protect our patients from the flu, ensures they are taking new medicine correctly and gives an opportunity to discuss any issues such as side effects or compliance issues. We are also able to help patients who have forgotten or run out of medicines if they are unable to obtain a prescription.

“The NHS 111 service refers patients to community pharmacy. After a private consultation with the patient we are able to treat or provide advice in the pharmacy or refer the patient to another appropriate healthcare professional.

“I work within a fantastic team made up of two dispensers and a pharmacy technician, who provide valuable advice to patients every day. We are a healthy living pharmacy, so members of staff are trained to deliver consistent high-quality advice to support the public to live healthier lives, tailored to the needs of our local community such as stop smoking advice, healthier diet changes and sexual health advice. We are also able to run screening programmes such as measuring blood pressure and testing for heart problems such as irregular heartbeat.

“Many medicines which were previously only available on prescription are now available to buy in the community pharmacy after a consultation with the pharmacist or other appropriately trained member of staff. These include Viagra Connect (sildenafil) to help with erectile dysfunction, oralist to help with weight loss, antimalarial medicine and the morning after pill.

“As a pharmacy manager you’re also responsible for running a business, including supervising and training staff.  We also provide advice to other healthcare professionals such as GPs or nurses about prescribing decisions.

“The pharmacy sector is changing. In the NHS Long Term Plan pharmacists’ clinical expertise will be crucial in playing an integral role in disease prevention and improving patient outcomes. It is a very exciting time in pharmacy and a great profession to be a part of.”

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