Research Student: Matthew Shaw
Professional behaviours: concepts and barriers for community pharmacy technicians in England
Submission Date: September 2021
The profession of pharmacy has traditionally consisted of a team with the pharmacist being the registered professional, supported by a qualified pharmacy technician and pharmacy assistants. Similar models may be seen with teachers and teaching assistants, doctors and physicians assistants and in the police force.
In 2011, the General Pharmaceutical Council introduced regulation of the pharmacy technician role, requiring them to register, demonstrate ability to practice and engage in continuing personal and professional development.
The majority of pharmacy technicians have qualified without guidance on what it means to be a professional. An understanding of professionalism, ability to apply it to the usual role and an analysis of what changes are required in order to demonstrate professionalism seems essential for this group to develop their roles and professional standing.
I aim to explore what pharmacy technicians, working in community pharmacy practice in England, consider to be the professional behaviours that they need to develop and what they perceive to be the barriers that prevent them from doing this.
I will undertake qualitative investigation of the behaviours and attitudes which community pharmacy technicians consider they need to gain and demonstrate, exploring their understanding of professionalism and their concepts of how this has changed since registration became mandatory.
I seek to explore the conceptual basis of professionalism for a group which has recently been awarded professional status. Professionalism itself is ill defined and research and discourses are being carried out internationally to tackle a definition for the practice. I seek to determine a deep and rich picture of professionalism in the community pharmacy setting by exploring the beliefs and concepts of those working there.
Specifically I will explore the perspectives of this new professional group through the use of focus groups and a semi-structured discussion. By repeating focus groups with those of different levels of practice experience, different perspectives will be gained allowing inferences to be drawn on the development of the professional landscape.
I am a pharmacist working in Manchester Pharmacy School for Health Education England. I lead a team who develop and deliver learning programmes for the NHS pharmacy workforce across England, helping them stay up to date and fit to practice within the modern and changing healthcare environment.
I am programme director for four MSc programmes aimed at those practicing in the pharmaceutical industry. These cover all aspects from formulation, through facility design and clinical trials, to negotiation, microbiology and regulatory affairs.
I teach management skills to undergraduates and postgraduates and run sessions on presentation skills and facilitation skills.
I completed taught postgraduate programmes in clinical pharmacy through London School of Pharmacy and Queens University of Belfast, my certificate in medical education through University of Dundee and my research degree, an MPhil at Manchester University.
I have worked as a pharmacist in the Pharmaceutical Industry, hospital pharmacy and in the community pharmacy setting. I also worked for the trade body for pharmacy, the National Pharmacy Association, in setting up new services to meet patient need across the North of England.
I am a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, a Fellow of the Faculty of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
What motivated me to undertake PhD study?
Whilst my initial motivation to undertake my EdD study was one of career development, my learning during the process so far has broadened this immensely – see my notes on why I am so passionate about this study for more on the topic itself.
Undertaking this learning and gaining from the feedback that I have received from my supervisors has allowed me to take a fresh look at how students progress through a taught programme of study and how tutors can make this more effective for them. I have gained new skills of recognizing where students need support and have been able to test new approaches to helping them to understand the purpose and rigour needed at a postgraduate level.
I have also gained new insights into the limitations of research and how difficult it is not only to develop a research question, but then to ensure that the literature review, method, results and discussion all bear truth to this question. It’s so easy to be taken off track!
My motivation now is my personal learning, development and growth as a tutor as well as a student.
What makes me passionate about my subject?
The more I read about professionalism and its multifaceted meaning and concepts, the more fascinated I become. As a term it is easily understood, but rarely defined or described. Trying to get my own head around the scope and breadth of the term and its relevance to my own practice has been a great process. Trying to put this to one side and explore other people’s perceptions of the term and its relevance is my new challenge!
Pharmacy technicians are in an unusual position within the English health care system. They are required to register and pay a fee and are told that they have to be and act like professionals. However, they have the lowest level of entry qualification (BTech) of any NHS professional and their taught programme does not include content on professional practice, behaviours or what this means in connection with being a pharmacy technician.
Often they may be competing for position or new roles with their line manager – the pharmacist who is the traditional professional in the practice – and this seems likely to have an impact on their ability to develop as a professional group in their own right. Whilst there is a national leadership body, this has low levels of membership and struggles to prove its relevance to those in community practice.
With no taught input, no peer support and no wider community – how can this group learn professionalism?
What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?
I guess that my first plan is to try not to forget what I have learned about being a researcher during my time as a student!
I intend to publish my work and raise awareness of how new groups learn and demonstrate professionalism. I also intend to use what I find out during my research to influence and offer direction to our approaches to providing CPD opportunities to this professional group.