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Business & Economy

Sunderland graduate begins top hospital pharmacy job

Award-winning dementia campaigner and Sunderland University graduate Emma Boxer has landed her dream job as a hospital pharmacist.

The 23-year-old began her new role this week as a lead pharmacist at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust outpatients’ department, at a time when health workers across the UK are under severe pressures as they tackle the coronavirus.

Emma, however, is braced for the challenges ahead of her, and says it’s down to the dedication and inspirational people she’s working with who are motivating her to do her very best.

“I’m really enjoying the role,” she explained. “I’ve been with the hospital around a week now and feel I’m starting to really fit in. I’m embracing how clinical it is and how much more challenged I am on a daily basis.

“The team are lovely and have made me feel really welcome. I think we’re looking ahead and talking about what changes we can make to create a better patient experience which I’m really looking forward to getting a start on.”

She added: “Pharmacists play a huge role making sure patients have all their medication and don’t have to worry about obtaining supplies over the coming months. Especially my colleagues in community I know have been facing immense pressure in the past few weeks.

“With massive increase in demand, waiting times and worried patients, I think the profession as a whole has done an amazing job of pulling together and providing patients with what they need.”

Emma believes it was the opportunities and skills she developed during her year as an academic pre-registration pharmacist, spending her week split between a community pharmacy, Burdons in Whickham, Gateshead, and working as an academic tutor in the University of Sunderland’s Sciences Complex that helped her land the role.

But it was also her work transforming people’s perceptions of dementia and helping to improve patient care of the condition which earned her huge plaudits and even led to her being named a Dementia Friends Champion of the Year finalist and runner-up in the national Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Awards last year.

“This job really is a dream come true, I always hoped to eventually move into hospital pharmacy,” says Emma, from Washington, who graduated in July 2018 with a degree in Pharmacy.

“The skills I develop during my pre-registration year at Sunderland ticked all the boxes when I applied for this job. The new role will involve lots of different elements, including being the point of contact for the pharmacy superintendent, delivering clinical services for outpatients and delivering staff training.”

Emma will continue her engagement work as a Dementia Friend and keep her links with the University of Sunderland by delivering regular Dementia Friends’ sessions to undergraduate pharmacy students.

The Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. It aims to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition.

Emma carried out research at Sunderland which found that targeting healthcare students before they enter professional practice could be the key to increasing high-quality care and greater understanding for dementia patients.

Emma’s research was prompted after becoming a Dementia Friends Champion herself and hosting a series of successful awareness presentations on campus to pharmacy, public health, adult nursing and mental health nursing students. Following the session she asked students to complete a survey to find out if their knowledge and understanding of dementia has improved and whether they felt it would benefit them and their patients when moving into practice.

Speaking earlier about her research, Emma, who currently works as a community pharmacist in South Shields, said: “The results of my work were certainly enlightening and highlighted a significant increase in students’ knowledge surrounding dementia after the session.

“We concluded that Dementia Friends training has a place and improves knowledge across a range of healthcare courses. The results demonstrate that education could be used to improve dementia-friendly healthcare professionals. This also shows the importance and success of the Dementia Friends session, as in only a short time period there was such a significant change in student knowledge.”

Andrew Sturrock, Principal Lecturer and Programme Leader of MPharm, said: “Emma has been a fantastic role model to all of the healthcare students at the University, and we are delighted that she has landed this role at Sunderland Royal Hospital, and has been recognised for all her achievements. We look forward to continuing to work with her and support the Dementia Friends initiative further.”

He added: “Emma has worked hard to enhance the teaching of dementia across a range of healthcare programmes at the University, helping to prepare students to think about dementia differently and preparing them to enter professional practice.”