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What it’s like to be a diabetes pharmacist

Hannah Beba is a senior pharmacist practising in the diabetes and endocrinology fields at the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust. She is also one of the charity Diabetes UK clinical champions and an independent prescriber.

She talks to Léa Legraien about her successes, challenges and love for the profession.

Q Why did you become a pharmacist?

A I always wanted to work in the NHS. After living in the USA for four years, where the notion of healthcare for all is a foreign concept, I was keen to get back to a healthcare system where no one was making judgment calls on their health according to their salary.

After working summer jobs as a care assistant to patients in their own homes and in nursing home settings, I was keen to find a job that provided me with continued opportunity to provide face-to-face care.

My original undergraduate degree qualifications are in biochemistry and chemistry. I was also looking for something that appealed to my inner science geek. Pharmacy seemed like a natural fit for me – I just took a slightly long-winded route to get here!

Q What is the key to your success?

A It would be impossible to inspire the drive to push things forward, put in those extra hours and fight for what I believe in if I didn’t love what I do.

I still go home feeling defeated some days but I try to come back to the table with a new perspective and reflect on the things that aren’t working and whether there is a good reason for this.

When something doesn’t work, I try to look at it as an opportunity to learn.

Q What are your biggest achievements?

A My biggest career achievement has been becoming one of this year’s Diabetes UK clinical champions. Twenty professionals were chosen in the UK from hundreds of applicants and I’m the only pharmacist in the 2018 intake. I’m proud to represent the profession among such esteemed colleagues, my hospital trust and my departments.

My biggest life achievement outside of becoming a parent is moving to the USA for my undergraduate degrees. I’d never been more terrified than when I got on the plane that day but it helped me prove to myself I could do it. From that grew a belief in myself and a confidence in my convictions.

Q What challenges have you faced along the way?

A Anyone who works in the NHS would find this question difficult to answer as there are so many challenging things in the environment we work in.

In the last few years pressures on staff, financial pressures, bed pressures, winter pressures and so on all seemed to have exponentially increased. These have led to new ways of thinking and consequently new ways of working.
More personal challenges have been revisiting my work life balance after having my son. Balancing out a demanding and fulfilling career with having enjoyable time with my friends and family is important to me.
My managers and the teams I work with were of untold help to me. They had the understanding that putting my career and my passion on a back burner wasn’t going to be an option for me and helped me to be more strategic about achieving my goals.

Q What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

A Say yes to as many opportunities as you can. I’ve found my network of colleagues and friends over the years by doing this and they’re invaluable to making change for the better happen.

Q What makes you happy at work?

A I love being part of a forward thinking and inspirational trust, my pharmacy family and my diabetes team.

I relish the variety I’m awarded in my role, which makes every day interesting. An average day has me enjoying ward duties, clinic time, governance and formulary work.

Pharmacy teams are highly valued at County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust, which is why it’s been so happy to adopt new roles for pharmacists within the wider teams for the overall benefits to the patients.

Q What are the advantages of being an independent prescriber?

A It’s opened so many doors for me, from being able to independently practice in clinics to support my junior medics and nurses on the ward at busy times, which helps build trusting relationships.

Being an independent prescriber has also given me perspective on the prescribing role and the associated decision-making processes.

The higher-level thinking and holistic consideration of the patient is what makes us such valued members of the multidisciplinary team. A prescribing qualification enables you to raise yourself and your skills to a level where you are even more valued.

Q As a Diabetes UK champion, how will you improve services for diabetic patients?

A My hope is that, over the two-year program, I will work towards improving better integration of pharmacist care for diabetic patients.

I believe knowledge and involvement in diabetic patient care is patchy across our area and I want to build on the competency that is already there to bring pharmacists to the forefront of people’s mind and establish them as more valued members of the diabetes multidisciplinary team.

I believe community pharmacy to be a widely untapped resource when it comes to management of both diabetic and pre-diabetic patients and I hope to see more services commissioned in the future that involve pharmacy teams in the management of diabetic patients.