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Locum Pharmacy Work Gathering Momentum

25 Apr 2019

Peter Kelly

When you hear of contract work, pharmacy is not the first profession to come to mind. Peter Kelly, Head of Retail with Brightwater outlines the reasons why locum pharmacy work is growing in popularity

Locum pharmacy work is on the rise both in Dublin and regionally and can be a superb way of gaining experience and building your network of contacts within the industry.By definition, as a locum pharmacist you are a pharmacist employed on a contractual basis through an agency, rather than having a permanent salaried position. They’re hired to work with pharmacies all around the country. But just why is this way of working growing in popularity with the profession?

The same reasons and advantages for temping in any other profession can be applied to working as a locum pharmacist:

  • Enjoy flexibility of hours and great work/life balance – you choose the times you’re available to work which would suit your lifestyle
  • Gain experience in working in different sizes / types of organisations (pharmacy groups, independents or hospitals) that cover a range of specialities
  • Competitive pay rates
  • Build a valuable network of contacts that you can use for referrals / help in the future
  • Experience a broad variety of customers with different needs

From an employer’s perspective, they would benefit from having access to a selection of locum pharmacists if staff are out sick or if they have to cover maternity or annual leave. This is a particular boon for smaller pharmacies who would only have 1 pharmacist on duty and would have problems if they were off unexpectedly.

Technical and soft skills needed for locum pharmacists

While working as a locum pharmacist, you do need to be hugely adaptable to all kinds of different situations.  Unless it’s a chain, no two dispensaries are the same so it can be quite daunting to go into a new location and figure out what’s kept where, what system is being used and how their paperwork is filed in such a short space of time. It means that the learning curve can be acute without even considering the constant need for pharmacists to be up to date with new developments in medicine as well as be familiar with generic medicines that are kept in stock. 

The softer skills such as communication, accuracy, numerical, time management and organisation cannot be overemphasised enough for locum pharmacists.

  • Communication: This skill is an essential one to have for pharmacists. Often patients come in, not having properly listened to their doctor and are relying on the pharmacists to explain how and when they should take their medication. It’s also essential to explain side effects to the customer. A good pharmacist should explain everything to the patient. A great pharmacist should ensure that they understand the instructions.
  • Accuracy: Attention to detail when working as a pharmacist is quite literally a matter of life and death. There is no room for mistakes. The effect on a patient given the wrong type of medication or the wrong dosage can be catastrophic and in some cases, tragic. Accuracy is essential in this career so whether it’s deciphering a GP’s handwriting, measuring the dosage, writing the correct instructions or entering the information into that patient’s medical records, attention to detail is crucial.
  • Numerical: Calculating dosages is critical so a pharmacist’s ability to calculate simple sums /figures is essential.
  • Time management: The ability to prioritise is also essential in a pharmacist’s job and even more so for a locum pharmacist who may not be familiar with the regular customers. You need to be able to assess situations and adapt within minutes.
  • Organisational: Depending on the size of the pharmacy and the structures put in place, locum pharmacists may also be responsible for all the “ad-hoc” duties that come with the job, namely people management, budget management, inventory monitoring as well as keeping accountable records of time spent in that particular company.
  • Conscientiousness: A pharmacist is usually the one consistent point of contact for a customer who could have visited at least 2 different doctors (hospital or GP) so they would have the list of medications that perhaps the patient has forgotten to mention to their different medical consultants. This means that a pharmacist can catch whether or not new prescriptions are counter-affecting older prescriptions or doubling up.

Working in pharmacy is highly challenging but it’s also highly rewarding. For many locums, the highs far outweigh the lows and they can build terrific networks while working in their chosen field.

For more information on working as a locum pharmacist or if you need to hire cover for your own organisation, please contact Peter Kelly, Head of Retail on (01) 6621000 or [email protected]