Learner Story - Nicola

'The diploma has given me confidence to believe in myself and allowed me to practice the skills I have learnt.'

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I work in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital as a Procurement and Homecare Pharmacy Technician. I have worked for the NHS as a pharmacy technician for 28 years. I started as a student technician at the age of 17 in the Royal Gwent Hospital. Once I completed my BTEC in pharmacy in Ebbw Vale College I worked in the Royal Gwent for 9 years in the pharmacy department.

Why is procurement important?

Without procurement, there’s no drugs, so you’ve got nothing to offer the patients. I like the fact that through procurement, I make a difference to the service and the departments. I took the opportunity to do the “care at home” service, that's arranging shipments of drugs to houses of vulnerable individuals, by receiving medication at home they have that security that they have their medicines and it also protects the privacy of patients. Some medications are really expensive so we saved the patient having to go get them, we save that stigma of waiting in the pharmacy and the feedback from the HIV group has been absolutely brilliant.

One of the primary responsibilities was to set up this home care service, it was set up in his infancy in 2017 and then come March 2020 when the lockdown started we doubled the service. I created a home care team of five staff and the team is grown from me to a pharmacist and finance officer and two more admin assistants because we now manage just over 1000 just in the contact locality.

It’s been a great success, especially during Covid times as lots of shielding patients are on these medications, so we didn't want them to come into hospital and they were able manage their care without leaving their home as the delivery is brought to their door by the home care company. There's nothing they have to do, no prescriptions to manage, we do it all an app on their phone, they book their delivery when it's convenient for the medication turns up and they administer it themselves. It's been a real game changer for the shielding patients to be able to keep them safe at home and keep our hospital beds free, the nurses during the peak of covid were moved to intensive care on wards.

How have you found the last 6 months as a leader?

The past six months have been extremely challenging. Still being the ‘new kid’ in procurement, my leadership skills has enabled me to guide and support staff through very difficult times. With guidance changing almost daily back in March, my team were having to adapt very quickly and often to changing situations. The hospital was under huge pressure to be prepared to be inundated with COVID patients. New wards were set up, staff had to wear PPE in the department and when working at ward level. Social distancing measure were introduced and some of my team had to be housed in alternative office space within the hospital. My homecare team took over the old Special Care Baby Unit as temporary office space.

Being a confident leader has given staff the confidence to work in such challenging situations. I have needed to be decisive, to delegate and organise but most importantly to be there to listen to staffs concerns and worries. Everyone was concerned about their health and whether they would ‘catch covid’ so carrying out risk assessments on staff and procedures was part of daily life for a while.

Rainbow poster NHS PharmacyOur procedures changed rapidly and I was able to provide guidance and support for staff in the ever changing situations. I have been able to motivate staff and heled them see how important they are in the pharmacy cog. I arranged for all logistic staff to have their photo taken and displayed as a ‘rainbow’ poster to promote positivity. The poster sits in pride of place on our notice board as a permanent reminder that we all make a difference, regardless of our role in pharmacy. 

What made you want to take part in the programme?

In 2017 I wanted a change in direction and applied for a job in procurement. I had little procurement experience, but it was an opportunity to develop my skills and manage a homecare team to centralise homecare services for CTMUHB onto one site at Royal Glamorgan.

I undertook the Diploma in Supply Chain Management to equip me with the skills to increase my knowledge and put me in a position to apply for a logistics manager role in the future.

It was the ideal starting place. I had a wealth of pharmacy knowledge but little in the supply chain. It is my ambition to become a logistics manager in a busy NHS hospital and this qualification would form part of the essential criteria.

I was able to study while still working full time, which was a huge plus. I am familiar with VQ Manager as I am an NVQ assessor for our pharmacy students who use it to record their portfolio.

I wanted to develop my leadership skills further to be confident dealing with senior management and being part of service developments.

Which part did you enjoy the most?

I very much enjoyed the theory side of the qualification and learning about what makes a successful leader. Covid has stopped my regular meetings (in person) with my assessor, which I very much enjoyed. I missed being able to share and talk about opportunities that have arisen and generated evidence for me. I enjoyed exploring up and coming projects with my assessor and talking about how I could capture evidence.

The best part has been able to motivate and encourage staff, especially during the past few challenging months.

How do you feel your organisation will benefit?

I have successfully centralised our homecare service, developed several services during Coivd to allow patients to stay at home and have their medication delivered to them, rather than them come into hospital.

Over the next few months, the pharmacy is having a new ‘All Wales’ computer system. This will change the way the entire department operates. I am very excited to be part if this and am looking forward to using my new leadership skills to train, develop and help implement the new system.

What’s the biggest thing you’ll take from the programme in terms of your personal development?

The diploma has given me confidence to believe in myself and allowed me to practice the skills I have learnt. I have learnt that I can do anything, but not everything! Delegating effectively and seeing staff develop themselves as a result has been extremely satisfying and makes the job worthwhile. Sharing experiences with other staff and group talking about ideas has cemented my relationship with the team. Giving them a platform to voice their concerns and having an opportunity to share their ideas has been a real eye opener for me. Seeing my team happy and working effectively is the best reward there is.

What advice would you give to other leaders and managers who are thinking of taking part in the programme?

Do it! It has been a lot of work, and I underestimated the volume and time it has taken to complete the work. Time management is crucial, especially if you work full time and have a family. Allow time for reading and understanding new subject matter before starting to write.

For more information on the NVQ in Supply Chain Management, please click here. To speak to a member of the business development team, please email [email protected]


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