A group of school pupils gathered on Monday 25 September 2023 to hear about the exciting career prospects in Northern Ireland’s pharmacy sector.

The careers showcase, which took place at Belfast’s W5 science and discovery centre, was an opportunity to hear directly from a diverse range of people who have made a career in pharmacy.

The event was organised by Pharmacy Forum NI – the professional leadership body for pharmacists registered in Northern Ireland – in order to mark World Pharmacists Day 2023.

The pupils attending heard a keynote address from Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Northern Ireland, as well as representatives of the schools of pharmacy at both Queens University Belfast and Ulster University, and a diverse group of people who work in the Northern Ireland pharmacy sector.

A line up of some of the speakers at the Career Showcase event.

They were also the first to watch a new video – produced by Pharmacy Forum NI – to promote pharmacy as a career choice.

Speaking after the event, Julie Greenfield, Manager of Pharmacy Forum NI, said:

“As a pharmacist with over 30 years’ experience of working in Northern Ireland, I believe that a career in pharmacy here is an exciting and rewarding one.

“On World Pharmacists Day it has been fantastic to showcase the wide range of areas in which pharmacists and their teams can practice – from community pharmacy, to GP practice, to hospital and right through to academia and the pharmaceutical industries.

“We’re meeting these young people to let them know that if they want to take advantage of the employment opportunities that are available over the next decade, they need to make the right academic choices now.

“If you’ve just entered Year 12, and are going to pick your A Levels this academic year, you must include Chemistry as one of your choices. Alternatively, if you plan to leave fulltime education post-GCSE, there are opportunities to train as a pharmacy assistant or pharmacy technician whilst working.

“If you’re in Years 13 or 14, start looking at the MPharm or Pharmacy Technician courses available at our local universities and further education colleges.

“We have a website (www.pharmacyfuturesni.com) with information and resources that will help guide you in taking the first steps to a pharmacy career in Northern Ireland.”

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Professor Cathy Harrison, said:

“Pharmaceutical roles are vital to health care; whether that’s working in community pharmacies, GP practices, hospitals or developing the medicines of the future. I am delighted to be able attend today’s event and talk to young people about the exciting career opportunities that are available within pharmacy.

“Encouraging and guiding our young people on the pathways to making a career in pharmacy is key to ensuring we continue to grow this fast-moving sector in Northern Ireland, and I commend Pharmacy Forum NI for their work in promoting pharmacy careers.”

Judith Harvey, Group Head of Learning and Engagement at The Odyssey Trust, commented:

“W5 is delighted to support this amazing event to celebrate World Pharmacist Day in line with our continued commitment to provide high-quality, STEM-based, innovative learning opportunities for all.

“Great events like this not only help to increase awareness of opportunities and careers but also provide young people with practical hands-on experiences to help make decisions on their future pathways.”

Andrew Cheung, a pharmacist at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, said:

“Having worked in both Community Pharmacy and Hospital Pharmacy I have been able to bring my unique experiences and learning into each workplace and team that I join.

“Patient care and medication safety is always the priority of a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, regardless of where they work or whatever sector they are in.

“Pharmacy has not only allowed me to practice my skills and knowledge from my undergraduate MPharm degree, it has also given me countless opportunities to further develop and advance my career.  Through working in some of the best and leading clinical teams in the region, I have been able to demonstrate the expertise of a pharmacist as a highly valuable member of the multidisciplinary healthcare professional team.”

Margaret Kelly, Lead Pharmacy Technician at Royal Victoria Hospital, said:

“As a pharmacy technician, my aim is to create a culture where each team member makes  a positive contribution to patient care, working in a team where they are valued and appreciated.

“I am passionate about training pharmacy technicians and support staff to develop and expand on their current job roles.

“Training and validation (of core skills) enables technicians to take on roles such as final checking prescriptions and drug history interviews.

“Pharmacy technicians working at the top of their skill set allows the entire pharmacy team to provide the best care possible at ward level.”