How can a pharmacy agency benefit you?
Pharmacy Agency Benefits
Having been a pharmacy manager for many years, I was heavily reliant upon a handful of highly competent locum pharmacists during times where neither myself or my second pharmacist, were available to run the pharmacy.
The biggest problem with this, besides the time taken to book them, was that adequately skilled, reliable locums were often booked months in advance. This frequently left me in predicaments where I would be frantically calling, emailing and texting pharmacists to fill my emergency shifts and cancellations.
This whole process was not only time consuming and stressful but took me away from actually doing my job. The staff and patients were often neglected, with my time being taken up sourcing cover.; time which could have been better spent on providing quality service, dispensing, and counselling…or actual pharmacy work, as I like to call it!
Of course, highlighting a problem is only really useful if providing a solution, so what were my solutions in times like these?
For a very long time, I relied upon word-of-mouth referrals from pharmacists I had used previously, who would recommend their friends and colleagues for shifts they could not take themselves. Although useful, this was not the most steady or consistent approach to obtaining pharmacist cover.
On the whole, agencies are a truly beneficial service, particularly in times of need, as an avenue towards finding adequate cover. The drawbacks, however, lie in their “finders fee” and the calibre of pharmacists provided.
More often than not I would be paying between £15 and £20 to find cover for a single shift, with the costs in emergency situations rising even higher. As a long-term option, it’s hardly viable. This was before taking into account that the pharmacists sent out tended to be hit and miss. For every pharmacist who gave one hundred and ten percent, there were others whose professional conduct was questionable, to say the least.
In any such situation, a pharmacy manager needs a pharmacist who can step in seamlessly, integrate with the staff and the pharmacy, and ultimately make it seem as if the manager was never away. Unfortunately, it was more likely that I would return the following day to a number of complaints from either the staff or the patients, for any number of reasons. Ultimately all that was achieved in booking that locum was creating more work for me upon my return.
It soon became apparent that a large factor in this was the level of communication between the pharmacy agency and the locum. The pharmacy agency would be far too concerned with just filling the shift, so much so they would give no thought to the quality of the locum they were supplying, and whether they would be a good fit.
Not being run by pharmacists, the pharmacy agency had no interest in determining the suitability of the locum to the pharmacy they were being supplied to.
Ultimately, I tapered off my use of agencies to the point where I was barely using them at all.
It was August 2010, I had just finished my pre-registration year and I had accepted a part-time second pharmacist position with a retail chain pharmacy. I decided that the best way for me to develop my skills as a pharmacist was to spend the rest of my working week experiencing different pharmacy environments and how they operated. Naturally, I registered with numerous agencies in the hopes of gaining exposure to as wide a range of pharmacies as possible.
To their credit, the pharmacy agencies did just that, I was able to fill the blank spaces in my diary with work at various retail and independent pharmacies. Most of these were completely new to me and it tended to take me a few shifts to get comfortable with my surroundings, however, practice made perfect, and soon I was able to work to the best of my ability.
Exposure to such a diverse range of dispensaries also allowed me to learn new working processes and implement them in my own pharmacy.
All in all, this period of time was a great experience. I met a lot of new people, made some great contacts and even got offered permanent jobs along the way. In all honesty, I was being offered enough work for my part-time position to be rendered unnecessary if I was so inclined.
However, not all aspects of my interaction with agencies were so fruitful. I was often left frustrated by the lack of information I got about the pharmacies I would be working in. On several occasions, I walked into environments where I had no clue what to expect. I was regularly misled about the pharmacy’s pace of work, their processes, services, and staffing levels; not to mention prior complaints I was expected to know about or even information about the PMR system being used in the dispensary. A particular “highlight” was receiving a parking ticket during one of my shifts due to not being informed where I could park prior to my shift.
In all of these situations, my thoughts always turned towards the idea that if I was the owner of the business, how much damage I could have done due to the lack of information or preparation I was being provided with.
All of these experiences, however, led me to something which I feel will truly revolutionise the pharmacy agency world; it led me to start up My Locum Choice (MLC).
I envisioned a system where both the pharmacist and clients would have all the relevant information they needed about each other before committing to a booking. A system where clients could select the pharmacist who was most suitable to their business needs and where bookings are accepted based informed decisions before choosing to work at the pharmacies who have enquired about their availability. This ethos is summed up by our motto “I decide who I want!”
I designed an online system that would give clients access to a diverse range of pharmacists by bypassing the conventional agency route. This system would provide access to locums whose services could be obtained at 60% of the average price charged by other agencies operating currently.
Clients and pharmacists can be confident in a company run and maintained by practising pharmacists. More so, a company who not only seeks to provide locum pharmacists with work but provide them with work in settings they feel comfortable.
As the MLC team expands, we really feel like we are changing the pharmacy agency environment for the better.
Our latest innovation was to implement a feedback system.
Feedback is vital, not just to pharmacists, but to any professional looking to develop their skills in their given field. As a locum, my only route towards obtaining this feedback was to pro-actively contact the pharmacies within which I had worked.
Not only did this allow me to gain feedback on my practice, but also for me to provide feedback to the business owner on how an ‘outsider’ would view their pharmacy, allowing improvement on both ends.
A perfect example springs to mind where during a single shift I helped implement an automatic repeat prescription ordering system which I had seen used at another pharmacy I worked in. This was very well received. Both patients and the staff were happier for the change. I went back to work in the same pharmacy a year later and the staff and management couldn’t praise me enough for helping them.
As you can see, we here at My Locum Choice truly believe there is a better way. One that benefits everybody involved in the dispensing process, from the owners to the pharmacists, and most importantly of all, to the patients. Hopefully, you agree with us.
To learn about My Locum Choice and how we operate click the following link and view our promotional video.
DBS checks are very important for locum work. We offer this as well.