Health and happiness are the best prescription

4 January 2022

From completing her pre-registration at Chelsea and Westminster, working as a rotational pharmacist at King’s College Hospital, to The Royal Marsden as a clinical trials pharmacist, Rebecca gives an insight into life as a Senior Pharmacist and what led to her specialising in Haemato-oncology here at Kingston Hospital.

Home to Downton Abbey, Jane Austen and Burberry, Rebecca was born and grew up in Hampshire. She says: “My mum has always been in Fleet and my dad lives in America. I’ve got a younger sister, Charlotte who lives in Southampton. We are always going up or down the M3 to visit one another!”

Rebecca studied Pharmacy at the University of Bath and says she always wanted to do something in healthcare: “I thought about medicine and dentistry, but pharmacy grabbed my attention. I liked the fact that you could be clinical and patient facing, but I also like the science behind it in pharmacology. It really appealed to me as there’s lots of different career paths within pharmacy. I enjoy being with people – I’m a people person.”

“I’ve only been at Kingston since May. I think it’s a great hospital and I’m so pleased that I’ve made the move. This role is different to my previous in that it’s not research based and is now specifically in Haemato-oncology (blood cancers), whereas before at The Marsden I was covering solid tumours as well.”

When asked what a typical day looks like, Rebecca answers: “I’m not sure how I define a typical day because when you walk in, you don’t always know what you’re going to be facing. On three days of the week, I have a rotational pharmacist covering the service with me. We provide a clinical pharmacy service to the haematology day unit and screen all the chemotherapy drugs for our patients. There’s a lot of organisation involved, from making sure we’ve got funding in place, clinically screening the prescription for safety and appropriateness, then ordering the chemotherapy to ensure it is delivered to site in a timely manner, so we don’t delay patients’ treatment on the day. If patients have any supportive medications to go home with, we’ll screen these TTOs too. We also provide a service to our inpatients on the ward.”

As well as the haematology day unit, Rebecca and the team provide a service to other areas of the hospitals. She adds: “We do a weekly ward round with the haematology consultant to review all our inpatients. We screen oral chemotherapy and haematology prescriptions for the outpatient clinics. There’s a lot of prescriptions we get through, and as we know within the oncology field, the service is ever increasing and evolving.

“There’s always change because we have new drugs being licensed, new chemotherapy regimens and developments to treatment pathways. It’s really interesting – there’s never a day you don’t see something different or learn something new.”

Rebecca shares how important the patient experience is: “To make the patient journey as safe as possible, we offer patients counselling on their chemotherapy medications and any supportive treatments that go with that. A holistic approach to patients’ care is paramount. We’ll review not only their chemotherapy, but also the other medicines they’re taking, to make sure there aren’t any interactions or contraindications. We provide information on how best to take their medicines, what side effects to look out for and how to manage them.

“It can be quite a scary and daunting time for patients, and this gives them an opportunity to ask us any questions or discuss any apprehensions that they might have about starting this new treatment.”

Rebecca shares her aspirations in life: “I’d love to expand the pharmacy haematology team so we can deliver a lot more of what we’ve got to offer. I would also like to become an independent prescriber. Aside from work, I think the most important thing you could want in life is your health and happiness, which has been particularly evident over the last two years.”

We asked Rebecca what is the best part of her job. She said: “It’s seeing patients get better from their cancer. If you follow a patient through their chemotherapy treatment and they achieve remission, so they can live a relatively normal life, then you feel like you’ve done a good job.”

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