Introducing Sean Sealey - one of our pharmacists. 

Sean is based in our Downpatrick branch, and in this short interview he gives terrific insight into his role as a pharmacist, serving the local community. 

What’s your job?

As a community pharmacist my job mainly entails giving advice on common ailments, medicines that can be bought over the counter from the pharmacy, and advice on prescription medicines that patients ask about or bring prescriptions for.

Of course I manage the dispensing of medicines for prescriptions too.

I also advise GPs on what medications might be best suited to an individual’s needs and help patients manage their medicines in a way that is easy to understand, safe and practical. Giving advice is a big part of my job and advising people on treatments for common complaints like colds, flus and that kind of thing is very useful in a community setting, because it can often mean the customer doesn’t need to see their doctor.

How did you get there?

I studied Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast and after that I did my pre-registration year experience with a small pharmacy group in Antrim. At that stage I knew that I definitely wanted to work in community pharmacy. I liked the buzz and the variety of the work.

After qualifying I worked in a number of pharmacies, before moving to Gordons Chemists in the early 1990s. I worked in a number of their branches, including Newry and Newcastle. I then moved to a pharmacy in Downpatrick, which is where I live and then got a job with Gordons’ Downpatrick branch. So, after nearly 20 years of work I am now back to where I started my career. But in those days there were only eight Gordons Chemists and now there are 60. A lot of the people I knew 20 years ago are still employed by Gordons, which makes it very familiar.

Do you have a typical working day?

I normally work from 9am to 6pm and it’s usually fairly non-stop, giving advice and dispensing prescriptions all day. We also open on some Sundays and public holidays, so I take my turn to work those too. Occasionally I would get an urgent call out from either a customer or a GP, who needs something after hours. When you get a telephone call after hours you know it’s a genuine medical emergency and I would not hesitate to help in those circumstances.

The Gordons Chemists ethos in relation to the pharmacy and professional services part of the business is based around us being a community health resource, embedded in local communities across Northern Ireland. Very often the pharmacists are from the towns involved, or have lived there, so they know the customers and get a real feel for what the health and well-being needs of the community are.

What qualifications do you have?

I obtained an honours pharmacy degree from QUB, then went on to get my professional qualification from the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland the year after that. I qualified as a pharmacist supplementary prescriber and then as an independent pharmacist prescriber.

I take part in ongoing professional development to keep up to date with knowledge. I attend regular training days organised by the Northern Ireland Centre for Pharmacy Learning and Development (NICPLD) and keep up-to-date by reading the pharmacy professional journals and doing distance learning courses facilitated by NICPLD.

What other skills are needed in your role?

You need to be a good communicator to be a pharmacist, definitely a good listener and have lots of empathy, as you are often dealing with people who are ill, under the weather, or who have concerns about a health issue.

You also need to have excellent organisational skills to be able to manage the wide range of tasks that need to be done every day.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The rewards are wide-ranging, from being able to offer health checks to customers, which we do throughout the year, to raising awareness with local charity Action Cancer around breast cancer and sun safety.

Knowing you have been able to help someone along their life’s journey - whether they are at the beginning of that journey or in their twilight years - is very satisfying. When someone you have helped gives you a genuine thanks, it means a lot and makes going the extra mile well worth it.

And the worst?

The biggest challenge is probably multi-tasking; being able to do lots of things at once.

What did you want to be when you were at school?

I was always interested in Science at school and while working in my local pharmacy during the school holidays I decided that a career in pharmacy would be challenging, fulfilling and rewarding. So, even at school I knew I wanted to be a pharmacist, which is probably lucky really.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in your profession?

The main thing is to get plenty of work experience, to gain an understanding of everything involved in the job, from stacking shelves to preparing prescriptions for dispensing.

What’s the most common question people ask when they find out what you do?

I often hear “You’re just the person I need to talk to. Can you tell me what these tablets I take are for?” Sometimes people just want some reassurance from another health care professional.


This article was written by the Irish News.


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