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Day in the Life of a Specialist Nurse, Medicines Management

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Name: Karen Guy
Role: Specialist Nurse, Medicines Management
Location: Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust
Wage: £28-£37K (Band 7)
Previous job: Project Manager within the Medical/Elderly Division and Pharmacy

My job title reflects the nursing side of my role and indicates that I am involved in all appropriate areas of medicines management in the trust. I work across two sites - The Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and The Calderdale Royal Hospital. I only know of fourteen other Specialist Nurses in Medicines Management in England, Scotland and Wales.

The role that I do

I often get asked what I do. In a nutshell it’s anything and everything to do with medicines management with an emphasis on the nursing side. My role focuses and predominantly encompasses helping patients and the trust get the very best from their medicines. This breaks down into a variety of components. I work in a positive strategic and operational manner to help reshape care around the patient within the sphere of medicines management to promote best practice. I provide nursing leadership, support and co-ordination of medicines initiatives. I act as the link between nursing, pharmacy and other clinical staff, and provide specialist clinical practice and leadership in medicines management.

I aim to equip staff with the knowledge and skills to optimise patient care through improving communication systems within medicines management and support the development of non-medical prescribing throughout the organisation. I continually promote multidisciplinary involvement in medicines management and encourage best practice. I establish, support and maintain pro-active learning environments in the trust and identify training needs within medicines management in line with the NHS modernisation agenda and local initiatives core to my role.

I lead on education and training in medicines management. I sit on a variety of committees in the trust including the Complementary Therapies Committee, am involved in writing and auditing policies and guidelines for any systems related to medicines management, and I educate student nurses in university. Another key part of my role is maximising service efficiency and reducing medicines related waste.

The skills it requires

All the knowledge and experience I have amassed since qualifying plus an unhealthy interest in medicines-related issues! You have to possess excellent communication skills for any specialist nurse role and this one is no exception. I have to communicate effectively with almost everyone inside the organisation (including patients) and with a variety of outside agencies.

I undertook an MSC in Health Professional Education recently. This incorporated a PG Teaching Diploma. It has further equipped me to teach confidently in a variety of settings and has proved to be invaluable to me as much of my role involves teaching a variety of healthcare professionals (and students) about medicines management.

The post definitely requires patience and flexibility – I often think that I’m taking two steps forward and three back. Change is ever present in the NHS, especially within medicines management. I’ve learned to appreciate that not all actions go to plan so I work closely with the ward managers, their staff, pharmacists, technicians and matrons to ensure they are fully informed and ‘buy into’ any changes that are to be made. I also need to be able to work flexible hours to meet the training needs of staff who work shifts.

Key relationships with other members of staff

I am responsible to the Clinical Director of Pharmacy and my professional lead is one of the Associate Directors of Nursing. Much of my work is self-directed and I organise my own workload within the broad parameters set by the Clinical Director of Pharmacy. I work as part of the Pharmacy team but liaise with all staff who have anything to do with medicines in any way, shape or form.

Ups and downs

I get a tremendous amount of support from the pharmacists and technicians as I can often think ‘out of the box’. The other nurses who work in medicines management give me a great deal of support. We are spread throughout the country and meet three times a year. We communicate effectively between meetings via email and telephone conversations. It’s been fantastic to see the number of nurses working in pharmacy growing steadily over the last few years. As an organisation we are implementing the self-administration of medicines and involved in work within medicines reconciliation – both areas that I am passionate about.

Being chosen to take part in the National Prescribing Centre’s Hospital Medicines Management Collaborative and now the Healthcare Commission/Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Safer Patients Initiative have been highlights while I have been in this post. I have been given the opportunity to share the work I am involved in at many national conferences which gives me a buzz.

The job can be isolating at times, as I’m the only person in the organisation specifically involved in it. One of my major concerns is – are we equipping the qualified nurses of tomorrow with the skills and knowledge that they require to practice all aspects of medicines management safely and effectively? Having said all that I am an integral part of the pharmacy and nursing teams and the ‘ups’ definitely outweigh the ‘downs’.

Career progression possibilities

I have never aspired to go into management despite studying for a PG cert in that area. My roots are firmly embedded at ward/departmental level where I feel I have a deep understanding of roles and care delivery. At the moment I have no plans to change my career as my post constantly brings me new challenges.

Personal job satisfaction

My post gives me a great deal of job satisfaction. By tapping into professional working at this level, I am able to influence practice and decision-making at a higher level. I am lucky that I have full support from the Clinical Director of Pharmacy and my role continues to evolve in light of changes in legislation and medicines management in general.

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