Attending professional conferences can be time-consuming, expensive and can often mean a bit (or a lot) of travel. But as against the opinion of some people that conferences are a waste of time, attending conferences actually serves great benefits to your career as a pharmacist, especially as a young pharmacist in the early stages of your career. A practical way to be able to afford conferences is to start small by saving every little you can every month. Target a conference that you want to attend, think through what you may gain from attending it and how attending the conference fits in with your career goals. Many pharmacy conferences have discounts and scholarships/travel grants for students and young pharmacists.
Wondering why you should even bother attending a conference as a young pharmacist? Here are 5 reasons you should;
Conferences are great places to network and meet new people; young pharmacists and experienced pharmacists alike. Remember the saying “your network is your net worth”.
Tip: Take along contact cards (business cards) with you to exchange with people you meet at the event. You do not have to have an official card given to you by an employer. You can design your own which perfectly portrays your personal brand. There are websites online where you can create free templates of contact cards/business cards and have them printed and delivered to you at a fee.
Improved knowledge and professional outlook
This happens especially when you attend international conferences. You get a global outlook on pharmacy practice, enabling you to have the knowledge and skills to change practice in your local setting. You also get the opportunity to learn about new and innovative medicines, products services you would not otherwise have known about.
Dissemination of research
You can make the experience even more valuable by presenting papers and research results at conferences. Submit your undergraduate and postgraduate research projects as abstracts and you may be opportune to make a poster presentation at the conference or even give an oral presentation on your abstract!
This is a great opportunity to learn and improve on your presentation skills. You also have something important to add to your CV.
Learning about new cultures and people
You have the chance to learn about a new culture and people, especially if the conference venue is at a location different from where you reside. This has the potential to expand your mind and inevitably lead to great benefits for your personal and professional development.
Opportunity to get involved
You can gain access to committees and groups within the association/body organizing the conference. This can put you in a great position to get involved in any capacity, be it as a member of the executives, or other roles within committees that enable you to meet new people, gain new insights into the profession, build your management and leadership skills over time, and add value to the profession.
There are many other excellent reasons to attend conferences as a young pharmacist. So, while you are charting out a career plan, take care to include attending conferences and pharmacy events in your plan.
At the meeting of a state association of Nigerian hospital pharmacists a few years back, one of the major topics of discussion centered around the supposed ‘threat of pharmacy technicians’, how they were pushing for autonomy and were threatening to ‘steal’ the role of pharmacists. Certain aspects of this argument were valid, what with some issues with the regulation of pharmacy technicians in the country and the prevalence of charlatans in the pharmacy profession. It was quite easy to understand these pharmacists’ sentiments from this point of view. The pharmacy technicians were moving for separation from the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and forming their own body and this was deemed insubordination to the authority of the PCN. However, these pharmacists’ reaction to pharmacy technicians reflected a serious problem that we have in pharmacy practice, particularly hospital pharmacy practice in Nigeria.
Sometimes one is tempted to liken this reaction of pharmacists to pharmacy technicians to the reaction of medical doctors to pharmacists in Nigeria (and even other health professionals), especially when the discussion is centered around pharmacists wanting to take the roles of doctors and ‘claiming’ to know things ‘only doctors should know’, when in actual fact the issue is not who is stealing whose role, but about each profession having unique and different roles that they can utilize collaboratively to add value to the patient.
Pharmacy has evolved over the years and pharmacists now take up roles never imagined. If pharmacists’ roles in developing countries are to grow at the same pace with that of pharmacists in developed countries, pharmacists will need to step into bigger shoes and develop greater competencies This also means pharmacy technicians stepping into roles that pharmacists are more used to performing in developing countries. In developed countries like the UK for example, clinical pharmacists take on advanced roles on the wards and lead pharmacy clinics, specializing in various clinical pharmacy areas. They can eventually take up posts as consultant pharmacists. In these settings, pharmacy technicians handle drug supply on some wards, carry out medication histories and data entry into the computer system. In the US, pharmacy technicians are starting to carry out immunizations (services that are not even being provided by most pharmacists in developing countries). For pharmacy in developing countries like Nigeria to advance, pharmacists will need to be willing to allow pharmacy technicians carry out roles they are conditioned to believe are solely pharmacists roles. An average teaching hospital in Nigeria has a ratio of pharmacists to pharmacy technicians of 10: 1 for example. And you would find pharmacists performing rote activities like the recording of daily prescriptions in combination with other roles like dispensing, and counseling, leaving them little time to go on their individual wards daily to carry out medication reviews, monitoring and follow up of patients’ drug therapy. Add to this the unfortunate fact that some pharmacists are not trained or confident enough to carry out this advanced clinical roles, and are comfortable to remain with these old roles (this is why the introduction of the PharmD in Nigeria is one welcome development). Pharmacy technicians can handle inputting of prescriptions into the electronic system, manual recording of prescriptions, arranging medicines on the shelves, compounding lotions, soaps and hand sanitizers. Pharmacists’ roles here should be supervisory and not to take sole ownership when there are other areas where their expertise is needed.
As pharmacy technicians are being trained and encouraged to be advanced in their contribution to pharmacy services, they can go on to be more equipped to go on the wards with pharmacists and work under their supervision to take medication histories. This relieves the work burden on pharmacists, gives them time to contribute in other ways to patient care, hence reinforcing their value to the healthcare team. In developed countries pharmacists carry out daily therapeutic drug monitoring, lead pharmacy clinics, and in some cases are based on the wards, while most of the dispensing is done by pharmacy technicians in the dispensary or for outpatients, contracted out to another pharmacy. Pharmacists also have time to go on home visits and follow up with patients.
We need to see the value of pharmacy technicians, and instead of seeing them as enemies, we need to allow them to take on more roles and let them see that we value their contribution. On a national level, we should have more training centers for pharmacy technicians, and they should undergo compulsory one-year internship in any pharmacy setting following graduation to enable them to develop hands-on skills and get a proper introduction to the profession. Recruitment of pharmacy technicians should be prioritized alongside recruitment of pharmacists. The results in the long term would inevitability be a better contribution to patient care by the pharmacy team as a whole.
Current practising pharmacy technicians should also be proactive and not be comfortable to just mark the daily attendance at their places of work and carry out the same roles they are used to. They should take up the challenge of new pharmacy technician roles. In all of this, their main aim should be to be a great assistant to the pharmacist and a key player in the positive outcomes of patient care.
Together we can advance the profession of pharmacy and retain our position as valuable members of the healthcare team on the global stage!
Antibiotic resistance is a significant problem in the world at large, cutting across both developed and developing countries.
Antibiotic resistance can simply be explained as the ability of bacteria to become resistant to concentrations/doses of antibiotic, which they would normally have been sensitive to. As a result, antibiotics become ineffective in the prevention and treatment of infections.
Apart from the burden antibiotic resistance poses to the human race- in terms of deaths from infections due to resistant organisms- antibiotic resistance also leads to huge financial burdens to health care systems. This could be as a result of the costs spent on purchasing much more effective and potentially more expensive antibiotics for increasingly resistant infections, or due to increased lengths of stay in the hospital, loss of productivity in the workplace and consequent negative effects on the economy of the country.
While antibiotic resistance rates are rising, the development of new antibiotics is growing at a slow pace. The costs associated with research, production of new antibiotics among other factors are some reasons for this slow rate of development. And imagine if after pharmaceutical companies invest so much in developing new antibiotics, and by the time the antibiotics are released into the market, resistance to them has developed
In the year 2015, Public Health England launched an Antibiotic Guardian Campaign to raise awareness about the imminent effects of antibiotic resistance and to encourage people to be proactive about preventing antibiotic resistance. As part of this campaign, people (healthcare professionals, students and members of the public) were encouraged to make pledges towards measures they would take or things they would do to help in combating antibiotic resistance.
Causes of Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria become ‘smarter’, mutate, and the antibiotics used against them become less effective.
There are a number of factors that are responsible for the development of resistance to antibiotics. Key among them is inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics, misuse/irrational use of antibiotics; taking antibiotics when they are not needed, not taking them for the prescribed duration/course or taking them inappropriately. Antibiotic resistance can also occur due to improper use of antibiotics in animals. This is an aspect of antibiotic resistance that is not commonly discussed. In seeking to proffer solutions to the problem, in addition to engaging key stakeholders, the veterinary sector needs to be engaged and educated on the dangers of misuse of antibiotics and the danger of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic Use in Nigeria
There is a high rate of antibiotic misuse in Nigeria. In developed nations like the UK, antibiotics are only sold when a prescription is tendered and such prescription is only written when proper testing has been carried and the General Practioner (GP) ascertains a need for that antibiotic. In Nigeria, one can easily walk into a pharmacy and ask for an antibiotic over the counter for conditions where an antibiotic would not logically be indicated.
The absence of policies with respect to antibiotic use and sale in Nigeria is a big factor in its current misuse.
Solving the Problem of Antibiotic Resistance
There is no quick-fix solution to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Resistance among bacteria is inevitable as it is part of their evolutionary development. Bacteria existed before humans themselves and so the only way we can solve the problem of antibiotic resistance is by employing measures that prevent infection, preventing inappropriate use of antibiotics, restricting easy access to antibiotics (by implementing policies and ensuring compliance with them) and the use of persuasive methods such as education
Infection prevention and control strategies are key in reducing the development of infection and preventing the propagation of resistant bacteria. Simple hand hygiene practices in the community, workplaces and in hospitals are very important.
Antimicrobial stewardship involves coordinated activities and efforts that are carried out to ensure the proper use of antibiotics, through the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team. Antimicrobial stewardship teams commonly exist in hospitals in developed countries, and could also exist in the community.
An antimicrobial stewardship team consists of an infectious disease physician, an antimicrobial pharmacist/clinical pharmacist, microbiologist(s), nurses and hospital management (and may include other key members of the healthcare team).
The team is responsible for the drawing up of guidelines on the use of antibiotics, implementing strategies for rational use of antibiotics, education of hospital staff, and quality assurance of antimicrobial stewardship activities.
Implementing antimicrobial stewardship activities in a relatively resource-poor setting like Nigeria will be faced with many challenges, ranging from the lack of awareness about the dangers of antibiotic resistance to inadequate qualified health personnel. Lack of funding, lack of equipment in some settings (particularly laboratory diagnostic equipment), and poor infrastructure are also other challenges that will be encountered.
We need action from the governments at all levels to implement policies that guide the development of national antimicrobial stewardship teams and site-specific antimicrobial stewardship teams. Staff need to be trained and antimicrobial stewardship should be implemented in all hospitals. Infection prevention and control practices should be enforced and the general public and healthcare staff should be educated. Monitoring of activities should be done at all levels, by the local, the State and the federal government, with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control suitably spearheading the fight against antibiotic resistance in Nigeria.
The Role of Pharmacists
As pharmacists- medicines experts and custodians of medicines, we should be placard carrying antibiotic guardians! Antibiotic misuse and concurrent antibiotic resistance is a big issue. Every antibiotic we dispense should serve a rational purpose. When a simple solution can be provided to a patient’s condition, let us desist from offering antibiotics first. Wisdom is also needed in knowing when to refer cases to a physician especially when practising in the community. We should as much as possible let our clinical decisions be guided by a strong evidence base.
It is sometimes saddening to find out that even pharmacists/pharmacy staff can be players in the irrational use and ‘irrational sale’ of antibiotics. Regardless of the fact that we have no policies in place in our country- on the offering of antibiotics over the counter without a prescription- we pharmacists should utilize the knowledge we have and constantly educate ourselves. When clients come to ask for antibiotics, let us take the proper history from them and ascertain whether or not an antibiotic is really needed at that point in time, and then refer them to get a laboratory test done (some community pharmacies in Nigeria have diagnostic centers in their premise or close to their establishment) or refer them to a doctor. Avoid the temptation of offering an antibiotic for the common cold, for example.
Let us be educators on the importance of the rational use of antibiotics whatever setting we find ourselves.
So next time a lovely client walks into your community pharmacy and immediately requests a specific antibiotic, do the proper thing, take the appropriate history and think ‘rational use’ over making a sale. It is also very important not to leave pharmacy assistants to handle clients like this.
Let us take charge of our role as medicines expert, antibiotic guardian, and life-saver (literally), and play a part in ensuring that we save our antibiotics, and improve the health of the world at large.
How does society perceive pharmacy? How do pharmacists, in fact, perceive pharmacy?
Long before I started pharmacy school, and made a choice to be a pharmacist, I was oblivious to how diverse and versatile the profession is. However, over the years I have been in awe of the various opportunities that are available to a person that holds a pharmacy degree.
In our society, the pharmacist may easily be perceived as a dispenser or ‘counter’ of pills. Some people cannot even understand why pharmacists have to spend so long in training only to finish school to ‘count pills’. But, that is not the case, as most pharmacists would know. Even at the basic level, beyond just counting pills, we know how much mental (and physical work in fact) goes into assessing a prescription, checking for medication errors, possible drug interactions, availability of medicines on the prescriptions among other things.
A common scenario of the public’s ignorance of the pharmacist’s key role in providing safe medication can be found in any busy out-patient pharmacy department or retail pharmacy. Patients expect to drop their prescriptions and receive their medicines instantly, pretty much like a vending machine, eh? They might even grumble and scream and ask why ‘simple’ prescription filling is taking so long. Some might even take it a notch higher and refer to the pharmacist as ‘nurse’ (Now I have nothing against nurses. My only problem is why can’t some people identify a pharmacist? Topic for another day.)
Before you find yourself confused, I would like to let you know the many opportunities available to pharmacists apart from the traditional and more commonly known aspects of community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, and manufacturing;
Clinical pharmacy: Clinical pharmacy has a special place in my heart. You may find it on this list and think ‘What! Is that not the same thing as hospital pharmacy?’ Nope, it isn’t. While every hospital would have a pharmacy department (ideally), it is important to know there is a distinction between providing hospital pharmacy services (in form of dispensing, inventory control and medicines information), and clinical pharmacy services, which can span (in addition to basic hospital pharmacy duties) providing dedicated one-on-one counselling to patients, attending ward rounds and intervening in a patient’s care in collaboration with other healthcare professionals, developing clinical pharmacy services (medication reconciliation, discharge counselling, and in developed countries, pharmacist-led clinics), and specializing in specific clinical areas.
Also, clinical pharmacists do not have to practice only in hospitals. They also undergo specialized postgraduate training in clinical pharmacy or undergo residency training in specialist clinical areas. They are an invaluable resource to any healthcare team
Clinical research: Pharmacists are very well placed to be researchers whether in the academic or practice setting. We always have to remember we are scientists :). And while getting a doctoral research degree will arm one with the skills and experience to carry out innovative research, you don’t necessarily need a PhD to make use of data (which is also available, but not actually collected and made meaningful use of) and carry out research in an area that interests you.
It is very important to carry out research in order to be able to advance practice, and provide evidence to policymakers and government about how important pharmacists are!
Medical writing and editing: A career in medical writing and editing is exciting. Remember all those hours spent writing and re-writing lab reports and typing up your research project (which hopefully I hope you did by yourself. Just kidding. Errm not really :D). Well, the good news is you can put all this to use and build a career in medical writing if you have an interest. Something as basic as starting a medical blog, writing for health magazines or editing posts, are a good way to start. However, it gets even more exciting. Armed with a masters degree or PhD you will have a competitive advantage of getting roles in medical communications and creating original content in form of research reports, clinical trial protocols, editing of journal articles, textbooks and manuscripts. This area can be very lucrative too depending on how much work you are able to take on and your skill.
Public health: We cannot deny the key role pharmacists play in public health. Community pharmacists are especially well placed to promote public health as they are in the closest proximity to patients. Taking a few pointers from Carmen Peña’s opening speech at the opening ceremony of the 77th World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, pharmacists as public health personnel can act as providers of information to their community on health-related topics. They can develop disease prevention and control programmes, provide health education, carry out public health research, and play their role in acting for the good health of women and children.
Elderly care: This is an untapped area in Nigeria. Quite frankly a great factor in its underdevelopment would be our culture of caring for our old by ourselves in our own homes. Amazing culture! We don’t have many elderly care homes that employ a large number of health workers to care for the elderly. Although this is starting to change a bit, especially with startups dedicated to providing elderly care in clients’ homes. In developed countries with such institutions, some clinical pharmacists specialize in elderly care and provide medication therapy management services to elderly people in care homes. We know how important a group the elderly are, and how commonly they are on several medications for different co-morbidities. So, you can only imagine the invaluable care a pharmacist will provide in this setting.
Medicines information services: At a national level, medicines information services are practically non-existent in Nigeria. There are a few hospitals that have functioning medicines information centres (commonly referred to as DICs-Drug information centres). As medication experts, pharmacists are well placed to provide medicines information to the public, and other healthcare professionals. We need to roll-out institutional, regional and national medicines information centres, fully equipped with research tools, libraries, and skilled personnel.
Health information technology: As the profession of pharmacy evolves, and health care on a large scale continues to grow rapidly, so are the tools we use to make our work efficient. This can cut across developing electronic patient records (with seamless linkage to electronic medication records and electronic medicines administration charts), the development of clinical decision support systems (CDSS) or developing software used in tracking patient information and health indices that make collecting data for research easier. It could also involve the development of devices that aid medicines adherence or make it easier to communicate with patients. If you feel like you are more suited for a career in developing technology tools and software that will revolutionize pharmacy practice and healthcare in general, then a career in this sector may be for you.
So, if you have been confused about what next steps to take in your pharmacy journey, or you are trying to make a case to somebody about how awesome and brilliant pharmacists are, you can just share this post with them 🙂
Are there any other innovative areas pharmacists can get involved in that I have left out? Or do you have any questions? Please, kindly let me know in the comments section. Let’s discuss!