Many of us associate a visit to our local pharmacy as an opportunity to obtain medicines to manage or cure our aches, pains and medical conditions. But how many people are aware of the level of expertise required to ensure we receive the most effective medication and are advised on its appropriate usage? There’s more to this than meets the eye.

Robert Gordon University (RGU) Pharmacy graduate Sarah Buchan typifies the career opportunities available to those who are enthusiastic about the profession. 

Her love of science and passion for patient care has led to a successful career as a Pharmacy Manager with Rowlands Pharmacy and a Lecturer at RGU. She works hard to motivate the next generation of pharmacists to achieve their career ambitions and visions for the future.

After graduating and obtaining her first Pharmacy Manager role with Rowlands in 2010, Sarah (27) joined RGU’s School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences as a part-time Pharmacy Practice lecturer in 2013.

The progression from student to practitioner and lecturer is one which she finds extremely rewarding. Sarah said: “I completed the MPharm course relatively recently and continue to work two days a week in practice so I’m able to bring very current scenarios into the classroom to challenge and develop my students. 

"It’s wonderful to be able to inspire the upcoming generation of pharmacists as part of the team who led my development when I was a student. Pharmacy is a dynamic career path with so many opportunities and we are now an integral part of the healthcare team which provides clinical support to our patients and other healthcare professionals."

Sarah’s career in pharmacy began with a week-long work experience placement organised through Cults Academy when she was 15. This quickly turned into a regular Saturday job where she remained during her undergraduate studies.

She said: "I knew that RGU was where I wanted to study pharmacy. The university has a fantastic reputation and is literally on my doorstep, there was no competition. I remember being in awe during my first open day visit, the students and staff were so helpful and engaging. I knew then that Pharmacy was the career path for me and I couldn’t wait to start."

Taught within RGU’s School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, the MPharm degree course is a four-year master’s level programme. The role of the modern pharmacist has evolved significantly in recent years, and the course prepares students for entry into the profession through a combination of teaching, problem-based learning, laboratory work and clinical placements. 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) requires each pharmacy graduate to complete 52 weeks training under the supervision of a registered pharmacist before completing the final registration examination. 

This led Sarah to Dalgety Bay where she completed her pre-registration year working with Rowlands Pharmacy. She was also supported by the NHS Education for Scotland (NES) pre-registration programme which ensures that pharmacists are equipped with the knowledge and skills to provide pharmaceutical services across the country. 

Following her appointment as Pharmacy Manager in Cults in 2010, Sarah became a well-known face in the community and developed a strong relationship with her patients. She was recruited by NHS Grampian as a pharmacy champion in 2011 and more recently, voted on to the Area Pharmaceutical Committee. 

Sarah’s contribution to Pharmacy has also been recognised by patients and employer alike. She was a finalist in the UK Chemist and Druggist Awards in June 2010 and in November 2010 was awarded pre-registration pharmacist of the year at the Scottish Pharmacy Awards.

Sarah is currently undertaking a postgraduate certificate in higher education, learning and teaching. She hopes to continue her professional and academic development through the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

The popular lecturer also has plans to become a pharmacist prescriber and hopes to undertake a PhD to take her to the next level. 

Sarah said: "My career has gone from strength to strength thanks to the skills and experiences I’ve gained over the years. My success shows that a combination of the right nurturing and development from undergraduate level at RGU and passion for pharmacy can definitely reap rewards for those who want to pursue a career in this exciting field."