After completing her pre-registration year, Umeh Ali was eager to develop her clinical and leadership skills. Here she explains how she kick started her pharmacy career by joining Boots as a newly qualified pharmacist.
Why did you choose Boots for the next steps in your career?
I was ecstatic to have passed the pre-reg exam and be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and was keen to start my new journey as a pharmacist. I completed my pre-reg training with another large multiple, where I was offered a permanent relief position once qualified. However, I was looking for a role where I could progress and further develop my clinical and leadership skills.
Boots caught my attention as it offers a large range of services. It also gives pharmacists the freedom to step out from behind the counter and genuinely deliver care, expert advice and a world-class patient experience.
As a newly qualified pharmacist, it is essential to have access to support and further training in the early stages of your pharmacy career. I am motivated and passionate to deliver patient-focused care and am eager to learn and develop the skills required to be an outstanding pharmacist. Boots provides such support to newly qualified pharmacists through the ‘Boots Pharmacist Foundation Programme’. This support is one of the main reasons I joined Boots.
Tell us about the Pharmacist Foundation programme; what does it involve and how did it support you?
The programme is accredited by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). It gives newly and recently qualified pharmacists an opportunity to demonstrate their development against a framework of defined competencies. It is designed to ensure pharmacists have the core skills, knowledge and behaviours to fulfil the role.
The programme supports pharmacists during the first 1,000 days of practice. Learning is delivered as study days, self-directed study and e-learning modules. You are assigned to a tutor who will help with the completion of workplace-based assessments and provide feedback to any written work you undertake. You complete CPD assignments, attend clinical learning events and training days, and also have the opportunity to share experiences with other newly qualified pharmacists. The programme allows you to build relationships with Boots Healthcare Academy trainers – who lead the training days – and other Boots pharmacists, helping build a strong support network from the offset. The programme ultimately supports your professional development, allowing you to learn and develop clinical, leadership and pharmacy-related skills.
Undergoing the foundation programme has really helped me build my confidence, as well as helping me to develop the essential skills required to be a competent pharmacist.
How would you describe the support you have had since joining Boots?
As a new starter with the company, I have been supported throughout my journey by both my line manager and area manager. I have also been able to learn from other pharmacy colleagues and I have taken the opportunity to ‘buddy’ with other Boots pharmacists, in order to learn about Boots’ pharmacy services, policies and procedures. Boots has provided me with a huge amount of support, from new learning systems and best practice processes, to learning new skills.
I have also received guidance from the learning and development team through my Healthcare Academy Trainer. The trainers look after your professional needs, but also help with personal development.
This support has been tremendous throughout, helping me complete the Boots Pharmacist Foundation Programme. My allocated mentor is able to guide me through this process and assess my progress. I am able to discuss my next steps and career plans with them. I really do think Boots supports you to be the best you can be.
What’s next in your pharmacy career?
I hope to take on a more clinical role, which Boots offers across its pharmacies. I also hope to further develop my skills and take on more mentor and mentee roles.
I am also looking to shadow other Boots pharmacists to see the various roles and opportunities available, which may involve working closely with universities and sharing my knowledge and experience with students and pre-reg colleagues.
At this exact moment my next steps are to be confirmed, but I am super motivated and excited to see what the future holds.
What has been your highlight so far?
I have completed the Boots Leadership Programme (management course) and I am currently coming to the end of the Boots Pharmacist Foundation Programme. Both of these programmes have helped me become a better leader and pharmacist.
The biggest achievement I have had at Boots is helping my patients. I have had amazing feedback from both patients and area managers for the care I provide. I have also had the opportunity to be a mentor for a pharmacy apprentice and many pharmacy advisors. I pride myself in my coaching abilities and I have been able to ensure my mentees are successful in completing their various courses.
What would your advice be to current pre-regs who are about to be newly qualified?
Firstly, keep going. You are nearly at the finish line!
There is not long left before you sit the pre-reg exam and become a qualified pharmacist.
Being enrolled on the GPhC register and having the title of responsible pharmacist when you sign in can be quite daunting. Don’t feel overwhelmed. There is plenty of guidance and support available.
My ultimate advice would be to join a company that will provide you with direction and listen to your needs. Boots offers newly qualified pharmacists exactly that. It has plenty of helpful colleagues such as pharmacists and field-based roles such as the Healthcare Academy Trainers, who not only provide guidance and advice, but can signpost you to relevant help if needed.
The teams at Boots truly go the extra mile to ensure you feel supported along your journey as a newly qualified pharmacist. Working for such a huge company, there are countless opportunities available; whether that’s the continuous development of your clinical skills as a community pharmacist, in a leadership capacity or even a clinical governance role.