A Half-Century Journey in Pharmacy: Meet Locum Alan Lewis
After working as a pharmacist for 50 years, Alan Lewis knows a thing or two about the industry. We caught up with him to find out about his career highlights, his advice, and the role of Locumate in shaping the future of pharmacy.
Tell us about yourself?
Next week I’ll be 50 years a pharmacist, so that makes me 21 years old (laughs). I’m one of those rare people that really enjoy what I’m doing.
This year, I’ve been doing a lot of vaccinations. I’ve done about 800 vaccinations to date this year, and I love it. I’ve got a humanitarian approach; lots of people are hesitant or nervous, so I try to make people feel very comfortable, and always try to distract them with a chat so they don’t realise the needle is going in.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in pharmacy?
Growing up, I had a very sick mother and I would often go to the pharmacy for her. We lived about 20 metres from a pharmacy so I’d go and get her scripts dispensed. It was one of those old-fashioned pharmacies with bottles of liquid in them, it was a very small shop. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t very clever for a child to be picking up psychotropic medications!
In my third year of school, I had a teacher who said that “whatever you choose in life, make sure it’s something where you help other people.” That really resonated with me. All the kids I went to school with ended up doing medicine or pharmacy. My brother – a year ahead of me at school – did pharmacy and he had a very successful business for close to 45 years. I encouraged him to do pharmacy and I’m glad he did!
Tell us about your role now?
I’m a locum pharmacist and I also do home medication reviews. I’m very hands on, progressive, and like putting people at the centre. I’ve always done locuming. It’s a bit of a break away from my consulting work and it keeps me in touch with reality, it keeps me at the forefront.
If someone was considering a career in pharmacy, what would you say to them?
I think the one single characteristic someone needs to work in pharmacy is empathy. You have to care. Patients can feel empathy. You can’t be a pharmacist unless you really care for what you’re doing.
You’ve got to be able to feel like you’ve done a good day’s work, it’s not just about doing 150 scripts a day, it’s about helping people in a way they’ve never been helped before.
You have to be human. Talk about side effects, ask if someone is taking certain medication for the first time. It’s not about sticking a label on a bottle, it goes way beyond that.
Can you tell us about a career highlight?
Oh there’s been too many. I suppose a home visit case where I prevented someone from suiciding was a highlight. But interacting with people every day is great, I just love it.
How did you find out about Locumate, and how’s it going so far?
I found out about Locumate through Pharmacists on Call. It’s a new platform, so I think technology is a good thing for the sector. Locumate is getting rid of a lot of bugbears. I think it’s time saving, which is important for me because I’m so busy. Confirming dates and rates is time consuming, plus I spend a lot of time doing invoices, so I think making that easier and quicker is a good thing.
What are your top three pieces of advice for other locum pharmacists?
- Appearance is really important. Keep your white coats spotless and wear a proper badge.
- Take a patient- first approach.
- Go beyond the label. Go out of your way and spend time getting up to date with medications and advice. Know what you’re talking about.