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Insight: Future of the profession is in safe hands


Insight: Future of the profession is in safe hands

By Alexander Humphries* 

I write this sitting in the glorious sunshine of an English country garden, the bells of the local church are tolling a joyful chorus on what is one of my favourite days of the year – pre-reg results day...

Whether you joined the register last year, or 30 years ago, I’m sure you can still recall the thrill (and terror) of that first moment when the patient/customer asked to speak to the pharmacist — and you realised that you were it!

I can’t say that I recall that specific moment, but I remember the feeling of professional pride, mixed with the overwhelming hope that this was going to be a question that I could answer.

In some respects I envy those pharmacists now taking their first independent steps in their careers. There has never been so much opportunity for pharmacists entering our profession, whether it is in community or hospital pharmacy, or a primary care role that didn’t even exist when I qualified.

Pharmacists are often commanding higher salaries nowadays, and the best ones have almost unlimited earning potential where forward- thinking employers look to share the benefits of service revenues with the pharmacists whose skills, knowledge and talents are helping to deliver them. 

When I qualified, pharmacists weren’t even allowed to vaccinate patients but are now playing an essential role in delivering flu and Covid jabs. I can’t begin to imagine what the Class of ’22 will be doing over the next 40 years of their careers.

One thing is certain: there will be more need for the skills and expertise of pharmacists as medicines experts, as therapeutic agents become more personalised and more powerful. 

The terrifying thing is the world into which we release these bright eyed and capable young professionals. General practice is on its knees and more patients are presenting with complex conditions that can be difficult for even an experienced pharmacist to deal with.

I have full faith in the modern clinical education and knowledge that the Class of ’22 has received, but there is something about being pragmatic and understanding the wider context of the health system in which we find ourselves. 

In some areas there is no point referring a patient who needs same-day treatment to general practice, even if that is what you’ve been taught to do. I find myself having to make pragmatic decisions in the interests of patient care every day. 

It gets draining and is emotionally, mentally and physically sapping to have to live professional life on the edge of what is possible. 

Rally round 

I really hope that we all rally around these new pharmacists and give them ongoing support to help them bridge what is normally a challenging transition at what is a precarious time for the profession and the NHS in general.

I would encourage all newly qualified pharmacists to find themselves a mentor, particularly someone who is independent of their employer, so that they can offload, get a reality check and have someone who is unquestioningly ‘on their side’.


I have had the pleasure of watching my own pre-reg (I’m refusing to call them ‘foundation trainee pharmacist’ because this is both a mouthful and a silly title) grow over the past year. It is something I immensely enjoy and find rewarding too. 

The future of any profession is only as good as the quality of the people entering it, and from everything I have seen this year, that future is absolutely in safe hands.

That said, the responsibility is on old hands like me to help guide these nascent professionals through what promises to be a challenging few years. But until then, new pharmacists – we salute you.

*Alexander Humphries is the pen name of a practising community pharmacist. The views in this article are not necessarily those of Pharmacy Magazine. What advice would you offer a newly qualified pharmacist? Email

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