Geraldine McInerney MPSI discusses the advantages of being with LloydsPharmacy as either a graduate or experienced pharmacist

With over 90 pharmacies across Ireland, LloydsPharmacy has become an integral part of Irish communities and a trusted source of healthcare provision, including playing a vital role in healthcare during the Covid-19 pandemic. The chain is owned by McKesson, a leading company in the healthcare sector with market-leading brands and a strong presence in 13 European countries.

Geraldine McInerney MPSI (pictured), pharmacist at LloydsPharmacy in Limerick, spoke about what it’s like to work for the company and the support provided by being part of the LloydsPharmacy team. A native of Co Clare, Geraldine studied pharmacy in Aberdeen in the UK, before moving to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to complete a stint in hospital pharmacy and once fully qualified, she again served as a hospital pharmacist in Charing Cross Hospital in London before settling in LloydsPharmacy in Roxboro, Co Limerick, where she has been since 2006.

“As a student, I had worked for LloydsPharmacy [then Unicare] in William Street in Limerick for two summers,” explains Geraldine. “It was there I met Goretti Brady, who was the Area Manager at the time, and I was happy to get the job.

“As part of the LloydsPharmacy group, we are part of a fantastic support network, both within all the pharmacies in the Limerick region, but also as part of the other Lloyds pharmacies around the country,” she says. “For example, we have WhatsApp groups within the Limerick branches and the general region, and also a WhatsApp group for all the LloydsPharmacy pharmacists around the country.

“All the pharmacists in our region know each other and have a good relationship with each other and that can come in very handy if you’re not sure about something. Personally, I like the people at Roxboro — it’s the people who really make it. I have been here for such a long time that I almost feel like I have grown up with them and our pharmacy is very much part of the Roxboro/Janesboro community, and that’s very important to us.”

Support network

Lloyds Pharmacy provides extensive training to employees each year on all aspects of pharmacy, ranging from medication management to overall health and wellbeing, and operates under the vision to ‘improve care in every setting — one product, one partner, one patient at a time’.

“We at Lloyds Pharmacy have very good clinical governance pharmacists and very good superintendent pharmacists; there is a great support network there. We get dispensary bulletins every week with, for example, CPD ideas or learning points or to update us on things that might have happened during the week so that we can all learn from other people’s experiences, and that’s important too, because that provides us with some great learning points,” said Geraldine.

“Personally, I find that to be very important, but also my colleague who works with me now, for example, came from an independent pharmacy and she finds that having a support network like that is a massive benefit. There is always somebody you can call if you need help with anything and they are always very supportive in helping you with anything you might need.”

Geraldine spoke with Irish Pharmacist the day after the Limerick senior hurling team’s All-Ireland triumph and while her pharmacy was quiet on that particular morning, she was expecting an influx of patients later that day, some of whom may have had issues possibly relating to headache and dehydration! “There were lots of cars driving through town beeping their horns last night… this year has of course been very different, but because of the win there are lots of happy faces, although people are kind of taking it easy this morning.”

Covid-19

Being part of the LloydsPharmacy group has also minimised the amount of stress and pressure that has been faced by pharmacists everywhere because of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the chain acted swiftly to support its pharmacists when the outbreak first manifested. “It was a bit hectic when it all kicked-off in March because it all happened so suddenly,” said Geraldine. “So it was a rush to try to get all the safety measures in place and to protect ourselves, and we were all trying to be really careful. Then Healthmail started and that was quite different; busy, but in a different sense.”

However, she stressed that it “absolutely was helpful” to work within the supportive environment of LloydsPharmacy in dealing with the issues: “They were working very hard and very quickly to get all the PPE, such as the screens, setting up the shop in terms of how we would manage the queues, so there was lots of support from head office and from our regional manager. We had to ask for that support quite quickly and they responded quickly.

We also had to manage the doors and the barriers; it was all quite new, also becoming aware of the two-metre distance. But they reacted quickly with supports and thankfully nobody got sick, because I think the impact of someone becoming sick in the pharmacy would have been really stressful.”

Career progression

In terms of the variety of roles and career progression within Lloyds Pharmacy, Geraldine commented: “When I started here, I was a support pharmacist and then later I became the supervising pharmacist and assistant manager at the store,” she explained.

“Job opportunities do come up within Lloyds Pharmacy — they might arise within head office, for example, so if a person did want to move up the ladder and progress, different roles do become available. For example, my colleague Grace [Murphy] is now working in head office in pharmacy services and professional services. Also, my colleague Martin [Hynes] was a pharmacist here in Limerick and now he’s a clinical governance pharmacist, so those kinds of jobs also come up and there are definitely lots of opportunities here.”

The variety of the roles also means that there is never a dull moment for Lloyds Pharmacy pharmacists. “My store is very busy so I am absolutely never bored,” says Geraldine. “For me, the days and weeks have rolled into years… I joined in 2006 but it only seems like yesterday. A couple of the people I started with, such as the shop manager, are still here, so we have a very good team and that makes a big difference too.”

Training

She continues: “It’s great to have the Lloyds Pharmacy support network; they provide training, and did so even before Covid, where we would have training days and that’s a great opportunity for us all to catch up. Now they have organised training for the New Year on a virtual platform, and that’s also good to have.”

In terms of whether she would recommend Lloyds Pharmacy to a graduate or a pharmacist who is already working in a different setting, Geraldine says: “I would absolutely recommend working here,” she says. “I was speaking about this with a lady from Dublin who works with me and she said the same thing — she really values the support network, the communication, and just that feeling that you are not on your own, because if you are working on your own in a store as a pharmacist, it can feel quite isolating — you have to make a lot of decisions, so having someone you can double-check with is very important, particularly for newly-qualified pharmacists.

“Clinically, you could be asked absolutely anything and face difficult scenarios — people expect their pharmacist to know so much, and sometimes it’s nice to be able to double-check with someone as to what they might do. I have a newly-qualified pharmacist starting with me right now; when you come out of college, a lot of the learning is done on the job so for newly-qualified people, it’s important to have a support network so that you are not thrown into the deep end straight out of college or pre-reg. And even now, having been qualified for a long time, I still think that’s important.”