Locuming Tips for Your First Shift
Useful Locuming tips to conquer your first shift as a qualified pharmacist
August has arrived and you’re officially on the pharmacist’s register. You’ve got your diaries at the ready with plenty of blank spaces to fill. The only thing left to do is book some shifts, practice as a pharmacist, stop relying on that overdraft, and making some hard-earned money!
A few first day nerves are natural, thinking to yourself “how am I going to do this?” or “will the staff and manager like me?” or “will the patients trust my advice?” is something everybody goes through before they take the plunge. Everybody wants to do their best and make a good impression.
Drawing on the experience of friends and family with a few years of practice under their belt is invaluable; nobody has ever not benefited from feedback and advice. In that spirit, please see below some locuming tips for your first pharmacy shift compiled by us to help make your first day a less daunting experience.
Before The Big Day
Tip 1: Make yourself known
Never underestimate the value of a good introduction. It gives you a chance to scope out where you’ll be working as well as an opportunity to allay the fears of the pharmacy manager and staff who may be worried about handing over to a rookie for the day.
Call the pharmacy you’re booked in to and introduce yourself to whoever answers the phone and the main pharmacist or manager. Be aware that it might be a busy environment, so be sure to ask if it’s a good time to speak.
Use this time wisely. Try to gain an idea of:
- Who the staff are and what staffing levels will be like
- Will I have dispensers supporting me all day?
- Is there somebody on the counter?
- Is there a pre-reg or new member of staff who I will need to help train?
- How busy is the pharmacy?
- How many items do they dispense on an average day?
- What level of foot traffic does the counter have?
- Will there be any methadone patients?
- Will you be expected to complete any services (MURs, NMS, etc)?
- Is there anything particular you need to know
- What are the parking facilities like?
- Do they close for lunch? And is there anywhere nearby to get lunch from?
Tip 2: Plan your journey
That is a phrase which you should definitely remember. Do not turn up late to your first shift, it does not bode well!
It’s never been easier to figure out how to get yourself from A to B; if your car doesn’t have a sat nav, then your phone most likely has Google Maps to give you a hand.
There are very few genuine excuses to be late for work in any field, let alone one in which the business literally can not operate without you there (re-read your responsible pharmacist regulations if you don’t believe me!)
So plan your route and your time accordingly. Punctuality is and always has been the best measure of a good first impression.
Obviously, on occasion, running a little late is unavoidable; you might have hit traffic, train delays, stopped to rescue somebody from a burning building; it happens! However, if that is the case, make sure you’re providing regular updates to the place you’re supposed to be working. They’ll be much more accepting of your excuse if they know when they can expect you, and what to tell any waiting patients.
Tip 3: Documents at the ready
It is always useful to carry around certain documents with you. These will be ready to present to any employer who may ask for them as well as reduce lost time in trying to get a hold of them during your shift.
- Responsible Pharmacist notice
- Print these off in bulk as you will often leave them in the pharmacies your working at
- Reference Documents
- OTC Guide
- Accreditation Certificates (main ones listed below)
- MUR Certificate
- NMS Self-Assessment form
- Emergency Hormonal Contraception Certificate
- Repeat Dispensing Certificate
- Young Children and Vulnerable Adults Certificate
- Substance Use and Misuse Certificate
- Indemnity Insurance documents
- DBS Certificate
For more information about the Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) certificate and how to obtain one please visit the following link:
- Template Invoices
- In case the pharmacy does not have a specific invoicing approach
If there is an ability to read and sign any relevant Standard Operating procedures prior to your shift then take this up. The process is time-consuming and can affect your working day so it is truly beneficial to go in at an earlier time and get this done, if required.
Top Tip 4: Fuel your desire
As mentioned earlier you may be lacking places nearby that are readily available for you to obtain some lunch. It is worth bringing snacks and food with you just in case. It is also really beneficial to bring some quick energy products:
- Protein bars or shakes
- Sports or Energy Drinks
- Or simply water
These will allow you to stay focused and give you that second wind of energy you need when you’re in for a busy day. After all, this is new to you. It can be difficult adapting to the physical demands of working life; feeling hungry or dehydrated will not help that.
During your shift
You’ve done all your prep and you’re ready to go, so how about when you arrive?
Tip 5: Present Yourself Well
Be sure to introduce yourself to everybody upon arrival, and do your best to remember their names. Spend a few minutes to gain an insight into everybody’s individual roles and responsibilities. Find out who the dispensers are that will be working alongside you, the counter staff who will manage the shop and any delivery drivers who you need to highlight prescription bags for.
This is the best time for you to demonstrate your adaptability. Ask the staff how a normal working day plays out, the following questions will always yield useful answers:
“What would you like me to do first?”
“When do you prepare your methadone? The day before? The morning of the day? As and when the patients arrive”
“Do you have any blister pack/MDS patients?”
“What are your busiest parts of the day?”
“When should I go for lunch?” (for the sake of your professional reputation, DON’T open with this)
The staff and manager will realise that you are prepared to adapt your working practices to them and that you are a team player.
Tip 6: Mark your territory
Display your responsible pharmacist notice and sign into the responsible pharmacist register at your earliest opportunity.
Tip 7: Stock Integrity
Don’t be a lazy locum. Get your hands dirty, help the staff if needed, it could even be to put the orders away, get involved on the counter, make your presence known. The staff will appreciate this and will put much more stock in your input. Work with the staff, they may give you prompts so listen out for them.
At the same time, it is always good to manage the auxiliary aspects of stock integrity. During quiet periods, help them to perform stock counts, date checks, and other odd jobs. Be sure to familiarise yourself with how they order and make sure you’re completing orders as they would be on a normal day. Keep track of owings and make sure you’ve ordered the balances of these too.
Tip 8: Pick up the phone!
This insignificant tool will give you significant recognition.
There have been tales of pharmacy owners and staff hiring locums for regular work purely based on the fact that they answered the phone once in a while!
It seems silly but so many locums don’t see it as part of their responsibility. Ask the staff how you would address patients over the phone and adopt those mannerisms accordingly. Some places will not want you to pick up the phone, its best to check with the staff.
Tip 9: Don’t hide in the dispensary
Where possible you should always try to serve customers. If there is a queue then go and help the counter assistant(s). If they are tied up with other tasks then stay on the counter.
Always appear to make yourself approachable by all members of staff and patients.
When serving customers, take your time to make sure you’re catering to their specific needs. Everybody in the pharmacy understands that taking care of the patients will allow the business to take care of itself. Nobody will penalise you for spending a little bit longer with the patients who need your advice and expertise.
Top Tip 10: Services
Interpret how the team target their MUR’s and NMS figures. Some pharmacies have robust systems in place which means staff will highlight suitable candidates and present them to you. Others will expect you to actively seek them out yourself.
It is a good idea to find this out early on during the shift so you can manage your time effectively.
Tip 11: Keep your friends close
Many of your old colleagues and friends will be locuming just like you. Keep them close by so that you can lean on them for a helping hand when need be.
The pharmacy may be an NPA member, and you may need to call them for advice, so it’s definitely worth having their number handy.
If you have been deployed via an agency, then there are some agencies who are run by pharmacists with plenty of experience to help you.
For more information about pharmacy agencies run by pharmacists and how they can benefit and support you, visit the following link:
Tip 12: End of the Day
There are certain procedures that you can carry out at the end of the day with your own initiative which would present you in a good light.
Endorsing, Checking and Filing of prescriptions is something which would definitely be a task that can work in your favour.
However, do check with the team if they are happy for you to carry this out as some pharmacies prefer to do it themselves.
Top Tip 13: Handovers
If there are any tasks to complete, any queries to deal with, any issues to solve; leave a note for the pharmacist the next day. It is very important you follow up with anything if you have promised a patient some medication or a phone call the next day, make sure you leave adequate messages. Get this wrong you may feel the wrath of the pharmacy manager, or simply not be called back for a locum shift. Even calling the next day to make sure something important has been followed up will go down well.
Even if all went swimmingly it is still a good idea to give the manager or locum on duty the next day an update.
Leaving notes is something I always make sure to do; it allows a steady flow of process through the pharmacy and makes the job a lot easier for managers and staff. Make sure it is to the point. The pharmacist probably doesn’t want to read about what you had for lunch.
Leave your phone number or a business card just in case the team need to get in touch with you.
Top Tip 13: Invoicing
Probably the best part of your day will be knowing that you’re getting paid! Establish how the business pays its locums. Some may have their own invoicing system in place; if so then follow their usual process.
If they do not, have your own invoice ready and leave it in a sealed envelope for the attention of the manager. You have to complete something online before getting paid.
This might be obvious but make sure you have invoiced the correct amount. Don’t forget to include any extras such as mileage.
Tip 14: Time to say goodbye
Leave a good lasting impression on the team before you leave. If it is the end of the day and they have an influx of customers they are serving or are inundated with last minute prescriptions then be sure to stick around until they’re comfortable closing up. It doesn’t need to get emotional, even though you have made it through your first shift. You can celebrate later.
The Next Day
Tip 15: Get in touch
The next day it is always a good idea to get in touch with the pharmacy and speak to the team. Obtain some feedback about how you performed during your shift, if there were any queries or issues and if there are any tasks that were incomplete, you can offer an insight where necessary.
Apply what you’ve learnt
The above are just a handful of locuming tips picked up from years of both locuming, and working as a manager. There’s many more where they came from, but if I had to choose the ones I wish I knew when I was starting out, it would be those.
Naturally, you may want to change these slightly to suit your working practices and personality. You may even pick up a few pointers of your own along the way which you could share with others. Some locuming tips may suit you better than other ones. It will get better and you will learn and build your confidence as you go. Don’t forget with all the learning you will be doing, you might as well log it to count towards your CPD.
Starting work as a pharmacist can be daunting. And the initial excitement of passing can be overtaken by the feeling of responsibility. regardless of anything else; work hard, honestly, and ethically. Remember why you choose this career and what makes you happy with it. Pharmacy needs the next generation of leaders and innovators; pharmacists to take pharmacy forward and to help maintain pharmacy’s place at the forefront of the NHS.
There may be bad days, but stay positive! Pharmacy is an amazing profession, and within that, locuming is something that can be highly rewarding. We wish all the newly qualified pharmacists all the best with your careers.