Emma Graham-Clarke – Consultant Pharmacist

Emma Graham-Clarke-1 thumb“CHEMISTRY, maths and biology are the essential three subjects for those wishing to pursue a career in pharmacy,” says Consultant Pharmacist, Emma Graham-Clarke.

Driven by her passion for pharmacy and life-long desire to help people, Emma (53) has worked tirelessly to become one of the leading pharmacists in the country. Working at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust (SWBH), Emma is one of 70 Consultant Pharmacists across the country and was the first consultant pharmacist appointed in the Birmingham and Black Country region. She explained: “Ten years ago the Consultant pharmacist role did not exist, but was introduced in a bid to ensure that the highest level of pharmaceutical expertise is available to those patients who need it.

“I spend a large proportion of time on the Critical Care Units as many patients are too ill to take tablets so they need special drugs administered intravenously and through feeding tubes.

“I have to take into consideration how different combinations of medication will react in different patients to limit adverse effects. Every factor must be taken into account, such as the patient’s condition, current medication and diet to ensure the drugs will work effectively for them. The same drug can produce different side effects on different patients, which is why you should never share medication with people for whom it has not been prescribed. There could be very serious consequences.

Decisions have to be made very quickly so that the medication can get to work straight away. It is a rapidly changing environment but I guess that is where I get my job satisfaction from.

“Another part of my job that I love is to help junior pharmacists develop their careers. I teach and provide guidance so they gain confidence in working on Critical Care units. Many junior pharmacists can find working on Critical Care challenging as they must react to the situations quickly and be able to think on their feet. I help them to develop their knowledge and skills so they can be confident in making the right decision every time.

“Many of them have become Critical Care pharmacists which I find really rewarding, to see them be so enthusiastic about being a pharmacist and realise the importance of their job.

“In a hospital, the doctor will diagnose and design a treatment plan and the pharmacist will ensure the correct medication to fulfil the treatment. This is a highly responsible job and requires really good knowledge of chemistry, maths and biology so that the drug will maximise its effect when used.”

Emma also plays a vital role in providing professional leadership to all clinical professionals. She is a committee member for the UKCPA (UK Clinical Pharmacy Association) where the latest knowledge in pharmacy is shared with all clinical professionals in the country. Additionally, Emma has been carrying out research, evaluation and service development with her colleagues to develop protocol and guidelines for critical care units.

In 1981 she joined SWBH NHS Trust, and recounts that it has passed in a ‘blink of an eye’. She said: “I have been working at the Trust for quite a long time and really enjoy the support of my colleagues. The great thing about working here is that I get to work with many people within a multi-disciplinary team, which works because everyone has different skills to help patients.”

She also explained why she decided to pursue a career in the NHS and choose pharmacy: “I was born with dislocated hips so I was admitted to hospital when I was very young. I received great care from the staff and wanted to give something back when I grew up. Pharmacy appealed to me, as it provided many options such as working in the community, hospitals, industry, or academia.

“Sometimes I meet patients who are afraid or do not believe in medication, so in that case I take the time to explain and reassure them. I believe clear communication is the key to helping patients and their relatives understand the importance of taking medication.”

In her free time, Emma is a member of the retrieve crew for her husband, who is a competition hot air balloon pilot. Although she rarely flies as she doesn’t like heights, she enjoys the challenge of competitions, especially as they have travelled to parts of the world that she may otherwise have never gone to.