Third in the series, this article explores the learning experiences of a pharmacist who has devoted the best part of his life to the community and the profession. Pharmacist Work & Lifestyle spoke to Rasiklal Shah, from Bids Chemist in south London, to find out what advice he has for the new generation of pharmacists.
Name: Rasiklal Shah
Age: 60 years
Practicing pharmacist for: 38 years
Hobbies: Reading, Singing and Acting
Likes: Participating in community events
Favourite sport: Tennis
Likes Driving: Vol vo
Favourite holiday destination: India
Can you tell us a bit about your career as a pharmacist over the years?
I qualified from The School of Pharmacy in Leicester. Did my preregistration year in Boots and thereafter worked as a relief pharmacist for Boots for a year. I wanted to see if I can find a business in Kenya but upon going there I noticed that the political situation was not as I expected and therefore returned to the UK. Then I did a year of locum work, gained some experience and found that every area had different prescribing outcomes. But my eventual aim of owning my pharmacy was now nearing and in March 1970 I bought my pharmacy and started trading as BIDS Chemist in Norbury area of south London.
When I started work, most pharmacies had short opening hours and had a benefit of one half day each week. Rota duties were set for evening and weekend opening hours and were advertised in the press as well as displayed in the pharmacy window. At the time, most pharmacist were writing labels by hand and the sale of any prescription products had to be brought to the direct attention of the pharmacist. Most of information sources were from official books suggested by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and by the NPA for the pharmacy owners. Now all pharmacies keep patient medication records, and we have many services provided in the pharmacy’s consultation rooms, for example, minor ailment, smoking cessation, flu vaccination, MUR, NMS, private PGD like malaria prophylaxis, flu vaccination and travel vaccination. With the increase in the number of services now provided by pharmacies, there are more pharmacists working per pharmacy than before.
What has been the biggest change to your work schedule?
Increased workload meant I had to give more time to patient services and moving away from manual dispensing. Various 100 hour pharmacies and internet pharmacies also had an impact on my work schedule and for this reason we had to start delivery services at patient’s residence and engage patients with a number of services we offer. A lot of work pressure was offset by training our staff on various aspects of pharmacy business. Training has taken a very important place in my pharmacy.
As a pharmacist, how do you maintain a work-life balance?
Work-life balance greatly improved when I took on a part time pharmacist and I was able to concentrate on other aspect of my pharmacy, my personal life as well as keep on top of legislative changes in the pharmacy world. Getting the staff trained appropriately, helped me with maintaining a work-life balance.
What do you consider as the highlight of your career as a pharmacist?
Every day is a highlight as I consider the patient to be the most important person and helping them brings great joy to me.
Have you witnessed any changes to the pay of a pharmacist over the last 20 years?
The pharmacist pay has eroded over the last few years but most are compensated by giving clinical based services.
What effect has recession had, if any, on you as an employer who may have had to re-budget everything based on the economic realities?
I keep my staff satisfied, informed and look after their wages fairly. Work load and staff ratio is very well looked after even during the recession. The prime expectation is to give best customer services. The increase in services provided by the pharmacy compensated the effects of recession.
As an employer, do you feel the pharmacy industry is employing more people than they used to?
Yes, it is obvious community pharmacy is employing more pharmacist and staff to keep the pharmacy moving forward and updated.
As very few new pharmacies open each year, what do you think the future holds for new graduates?
I see many pharmacists engaging in fields not thought of before. For example, domiciliary visiting pharmacist, internet based pharmacies, the hospital sector – including private and NHS are giving the opportunity to work in varied environments. There are career opportunities at prison pharmacies, academic roles, CCGs as well as being independent prescribers at GP practices.
What advice can you give to young pharmacists and graduates wanting a career in pharmacy?
For me pharmacy was a career that really satisfied me and was beneficial to me as I had many interactions with patients, GPs , hospitals consultants, hospital pharmacists, PCT and CCG pharmacists. With the new changes in the healthcare sector a career in pharmacy is definitely an option to look for as that opens the door for a new world of healthcare opportunities.
Looking at Rasiklal Shah’s lifelong career it is evident that the role of a pharmacist has been everchanging. If you have a drive to serve the community and patients, no challenge can be big and you can find rewards in any field you choose to practice your career.
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