Upskilling and Studying – Increase your Appetite for Learning!

By Alice Vanderpol, 2018 Pharmacy Assistant of the Year

The S word…

Some people (like me) have an appetite for study; the more knowledge and information we absorb, the happier we are. On the other hand, some people quiver at their knees when they hear that dreaded word… ‘study’. Because ‘study’ means hard work, long hours, assessments, essays, self-discipline, stress, stress and did I say…stress?!!

But, what if I told you that ‘study’ can mean the exact opposite? Are you intrigued? Have I got your attention? What if I told you that study can give you a promotion? What if I told you it can lead to opportunity, new skills and knowledge, new found confidence, increased job satisfaction, job security, pay rises and more?!

This has all rung true in my life, and I think my love for study and knowledge has stemmed back to my childhood. My father constantly told me that studying is important and that gaining qualifications will set me up for life, and open up my career options…by the way, thanks Dad!!

Starting a brand new career and recommencing study at the age of 30 was daunting, especially since I had three little monkeys in tow. Studying was certainly going to look different now than when I was 20! In saying that, I am so glad that I took the leap and challenged myself. I have been in pharmacy for five years now and have completed four certifications in that time frame. Yes, it has been busy and stressful at times, but the confidence and knowledge that I have gained far outweigh the challenges I encountered. I am a far better pharmacy assistant! I am more knowledgeable now and I have gained confidence. My favourite part is that I have discovered something new that I love!

In today’s constantly evolving workplaces, we must continuously learn new skills. Every day there are new medications being made, new products, new therapies, new treatment options for patients and new management methods. When you factor in today’s large workloads and jam-packed schedules, there is little time left for learning. So how do we get inspired and encourage not only ourselves but co-workers to gain new skills in today’s busy workplaces?

1. Align training to individuals

A common mistake often made is that learning programs are treated as a ‘tick the box exercise’ where everyone receives the same training. From a managers perspective, incorporating work reviews and tools such as an engagement survey are a great way to determine what staff actually want to learn and the skills they want to develop. Giving staff options on what they want to learn is a far better investment not only for staff themselves, but also for what they can offer customers and give back to the business.

2. Instil a coaching culture

With any upskilling or training activity, it is always helpful to have a ‘mentor’ or ‘coach’ to help you with the extra study, keep you accountable and provide much needed encouragement.

If there’s a strong coaching culture within the pharmacy, a lot of the learning is happening on the job anyway and there doesn’t have to be a selected time slot for ‘learning’ that you and other staff have to work around. A coach has the advantage of offering on-the-go guidance and feedback in the moment; this is coaching at its finest. The pharmacy that I work at are superstars at this. There is never a ‘silly’ question, and they are patient and always have the time. The bosses have created an environment where it’s safe to ask questions. It’s in your boss’s best interest to instil and pass on their knowledge, and find the time to invest into their staff’s professional development.

3. Break training into bite-sized learning

Let’s face it – full training days can be problematic. They’re difficult to manage for staff that have already demanding workloads (not to mention rostering on extra staff to cover shifts), and then there’s the travel to think about. Phew! The solution is found in the delivery of education and looking for ways to deliver bite-size chunks of information. It could be attending anything from short workshops, online learning or education through weekly staff meetings. One of my roles is to deliver product and health education at staff meetings. This has provided both myself and other staff members with knowledge and confidence when approaching customers, and being able to deliver the highest customer care.

4. Embrace online learning

When it comes to online learning in education, the model has been pretty straightforward. Up until the early 2000s, education was in a classroom of students with a teacher who led the process. Physical presence was a no-brainer, and any other type of learning was questionable at best. Then the internet happened, and the rest is history. In the fast-paced world of e-learning, the technology available to make a course new and exciting is always changing, and course content can be updated quickly to give students the very latest information. Training is generally low cost and gives you the ability to study in your own time and place

This is one of the reasons why the Pharmacy Guild offers an online solution for pharmacy assistants. Guild Learning and Development’s GuildEd online learning management system allows you to further your knowledge, fulfil your personal development and offers QCPP refresher training requirements in one easy to use platform.  

Your time is now!

Are you ready to challenge your existing knowledge in an ever-changing industry, helping you to further both your personal and professional development? How about boost your creativity, capacity for learning and time-management skills as you learn new and more effective ways of doing your job? Are you ready to show your boss or a potential employer that you’re a self-disciplined and highly-motivated individual, putting you in a stronger position to secure the role you’re after?

You’re never too old to learn something new and if you think you know it all, well you have a lot to learn! What are you waiting for? Go on, get out there and do yourself a favour…you never know, you may just enjoy it!!

If you’re ready to challenge your existing knowledge, and develop your personal and career development, why not nominate yourself or someone else for the 2019 Pharmacy Assistant of the Year? Third party nominations close soon on 24 May and self nominations close on 7 June. PATY offers an abundance of learning and education opportunities to help pharmacy assistants grow in their careers. Nominate now at