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I went to the Boots UK pharmacy conference where they launched the role. I decided to look into the training and whether the role would benefit my patients. When I started researching the potential benefits, I found out that the nearest Macmillan information centre was 15 miles away. If you’ve got cancer, that may be quite far. So I did the training and developed my role from there.
It’s an e-learning programme that gives you a broad understanding of cancer and how to talk to people about cancer. It sets you off in the right direction and identifies any gaps in your knowledge so you can build on them.
I think that If you really want to bring the role to life, you’ve got to do it yourself. I started out by promoting the service by word of mouth and telling patients how I can help. I now have around 25 regular patients who come to me for information. I’ve also built links with the local Macmillan information centre, GPs and district nurses, to let them know I am one of the people who can link with them. This has created a more complete pharmacy service.The dispensing team is also getting involved by reading new Macmillan information.
It’s often quick questions, such as how to treat a sore mouth during radiotherapy| or what type of deodorant to use. The first person I saw was the hardest; they broke down in tears. Previously I’d not had much exposure to cancer.
When I get questions beyond my remit, such as financial issues, I refer people to other services or Macmillan’s information. I’ll also ring the local Macmillan information centre| and make an appointment for them to come in. I also try to help carers with any practical issues.
I had one patient with a rare type of liver cancer. She had previously been put off asking questions and would mull over her worries. But she came to us because we were local and very accessible - you don’t have to make an appointment.
I have a higher level of satisfaction in my role and I’ve gained transferable skills. Too commonly, pharmacists seek the answers through medicine. This role helps with communications skills and your social and emotional side.
I’ve also had a couple of consultants call me to tell me how useful the service is. Now patients see me as part of the network.
We held a Macmillan day in the store and took part in a torch relay with other Boots UK stores. We sometimes wear the green Macmillan wigs. We want to give back to Macmillan. It’s fun too.
I’d like to develop services around two passions - one is looking at how we can help prevent cancer and the other is providing the best treatment possible.
I’ve been working in pharmacies since I was 16. Work experience at college led to a part-time Saturday job. I liked the interaction with people and my interest developed from there. I went on to study pharmacy at university.
An area manager once told me, ‘If you’re going to do something, make sure you’re the very best - otherwise, don’t bother.’ I think of that advice whenever I set out to do something new.
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