Consultation skills in pharmacy practice – have you got the T-shirt asks Clare Smith?

Clare Smith

Clare Smith

I HATE to admit, but after 20 years of working in community pharmacy it’s easy to become complacent. You may think you’ve seen everything, heard it all and even bought the T-shirt (or three!). But have you? And how do you know?

For me, after 15 years as a pharmacy technician and the last five years as a pharmacist, I believed my communication skills were quite good. I always felt I had built up a good rapport with my patients, and was able to fulfil their particular needs.

But had I? How would I know I was really getting it right, and using the right skills to meet both mine and the patient’s agenda? How easy was it to simply impart all of my knowledge on to the patient, rather than to actually find out what they already knew? Had I just joined an army of ‘tellers’ instead of actively engaging in a two-way conversation with the patient?

We all want the best for our patients; we all want to work in partnership with them to make sure they can make informed choices about their medicines and health. That’s why we came into the profession, that’s what makes us pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. So why not be the best that we can be?

So when the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) Consultation skills for pharmacy practice: taking a patient-centred approach distance learning programme came through my letterbox, I obviously grabbed it with both hands. Well, I opened it, skimmed through it, and filed it on my CPD to do pile. I mean, surely it couldn’t teach me anything new, as I’d got my T-shirts, remember. I would hazard a guess that quite a few other pharmacists and pharmacy technicians may have done the same thing. So if that’s the case, I urge you to reconsider.

As anybody who works in a pharmacy environment will know, it’s an ever-changing world. The original idea of the pharmacy professional being stuck behind those dispensary walls just doesn’t exist anymore, and we are all the better for it. We are spending more time with our patients, whether that is in community, in hospital or working within GP practices. We are the first port of call for many of the public, and they truly rely on our advice and expertise.

So with this in mind, Health Education England (HEE) has identified developing the consultation skills of the pharmacy professional as a key priority. Working together with CPPE, they have developed a new and innovative programme, Consultation skills for pharmacy practice (CSfPP), to help support us on our journey. The programme delivers a six-step learning and development pathway and is full of useful resources to help us reflect on our learning and current practice.

So dust off that workbook and take a second look. You’d be surprised. Initially, I felt pressured to pass the CSfPP assessment in my role as a pharmacist. But once I’d relaxed into the assessment and related material, I really enjoyed watching the videos and seeing other pharmacists in action. All these tools are here to support us to be able to actively engage with our patients, have good quality consultations and put the patient at the centre of their own healthcare.

Take a look at what’s on offer, read the workbook, attempt the e-learning, visit the website or, even better, do all three and then sit the assessment. Take time to reflect on your learning, and really embrace this new culture of working towards a patient-centred approach.

So in response to my original thoughts, maybe I do have my T-shirts. But there’s no harm in adding more layers.

Clare Smith is senior pharmacist, learning development at the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education

Follow Clare @ClareCPPE

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