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What A Typical Day Looks Like Working in a Pharmacy: Dispensing Assistant

There are many people who don’t realise just how much hard work, education and expertise goes into running a community pharmacy.  


That’s why we’ve decided to share a series of blog posts which give a short account of the typical day that many of our pharmacy staff members enjoy when working for Whitworth. Perhaps it will even inspire more talented individuals to start their own careers in this challenging yet highly rewarding industry.  


To kick things off, we had a chat with Dispensing Assistant Christine Maguire to find out what her job involves, what her typical day looks like, and much more. Here’s what she had to say…  


Q1. Why did you choose to work for Whitworth Pharmacy? 

I first started my pharmacy career 41 years ago and joined the Whitworth team around 21 years ago. I’m very happy that I did- they’re such a friendly and supportive bunch and I’ve made a lot of friends here.  


Q2. What does your job entail? 

My job involves me working very closely with the public and giving advice about over the counter medicines, pharmacy services and prescription medicines.  
I also process prescriptions along with the pharmacist, order medication from our warehouse, check off orders and put them away using a stock control system. As well as all of this, you can also find me cashing up, filling and sorting prescriptions at the end of the month. 


Q3. What makes your job special? 

By far, I’m most proud of the fact that I’m part of a team that makes such a difference to people’s lives. As well as supplying our customers with the medication they need, we also provide a range of supportive services and advice that means those who need care the most actually get it. This is especially important at the moment with the long NHS waiting times and coronavirus crisis.  

This job has also allowed me to grow significantly over the course of my career. I’ve built up a lot of knowledge and formed strong relationships over the years which enables me to help customers on a professional level, and also as a trusted friend. 


Q4. What does a typical day look like? 

Although my job starts at 9.00 am, I arrive at 8.30am so I can be better prepared for the day ahead.  
At 9.00am, the prescriptions come in and we start our day either filling these prescriptions or doing the blister packs. Throughout the rest of the day, we do a variety of tasks including liaising with doctors’ surgeries to make sure the prescriptions are organised and checking and putting away any orders that arrive.  
Whilst we’re doing this, customers are coming into the pharmacy looking for advice and help and we are always there to give them the assistance they need.  
Because we’re dealing with different groups of people, we really need to use our communication skills to ensure that we understand exactly what the customer needs and can provide that reassurance and friendly smile that makes a huge difference to how they feel.  

Thankfully, Whitworth provide us with plenty of ongoing training that helps us to improve our listening skills and further our knowledge.  

At the end of the day, we cash up and ensure that the shop and dispensary are clean and tidy.  


Q5. What are the challenges you face on a daily basis? 

We always face challenges over the course of our working day! That’s part of working in pharmacy!  
Whether it’s medication shortages, anxious customers or the recent coronavirus outbreak, we always find ways to work around these problems so we can keep delivering a fast, efficient and friendly service to all of our customers.  


Q6. What has been the most rewarding day in your job?

Being awarded ‘Branch of the Year’ was by far the most rewarding day in my career! 

We normally have an annual conference that all Whitworth pharmacies and support staff attend. The conference is held over two days and is a chance for training to take place for all staff and share knowledge. In the evening an awards event takes place to identify achievements within the pharmacies and support office. We tried to maintain the conference this year however it was online.  


Q7. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about working in/for a pharmacy?  

There are many! Most people think that all we do is serve behind a counter or dole out medication. They don’t really appreciate the work that goes into dispensing, ordering, and running a pharmacy.  
We’re there to make sure you’re getting the right dose of medication. We’re there to provide instant advice on that nasty itchy rash that has appeared on your child’s back. We’re there to help keep our local community healthy by providing advice and support on healthy living. We work hard to ensure that the NHS budget cuts don’t affect the health care you receive, and we often work long hours (including weekends) to make this happen.  

There have also been a lot of changes that have come about in the last few years which many people don’t realise. 


Q8. And finally, what advice would you give for somebody looking to join the pharmacy profession? 

I’d tell them that it’s an excellent, very rewarding career that provides lots of opportunities, even if you haven’t studied to be a pharmacist. By completing various courses at various stages of your career, you can climb the ranks and fulfil your potential.  


Thank you, Christine!