Insight: TED x Mark Clymer

My career up to September 2018 was what could be described as the “typical” hospital clinical pharmacist path.

I graduated from the University of Bath in 2005 and completed my pre-registration at Norfolk and Norwich University hospital NHSFT.  This was followed by a resident pharmacist post at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHSFT, which I found exciting, tiring and rewarding. Alongside this I completed the expected postgraduate diploma and then after residency I remained in Sheffield and completed speciality rotations in admissions, cardiology and haematology.

I thoroughly enjoyed all my clinical roles and felt that I made a difference to patient care through multi-disciplinary team working, guideline development, supporting my peers and taking on extended roles where possible.  I found all the different specialities interesting but I found that the rotations that resonated with me the most were the ones in which the senior leaders in the directorate were engaging, enthusiastic and inclusive to all team members.  

I have now been a critical care pharmacist for six years and I am fortunate to work in a team and department that are proactive, innovative and supportive.  However as my career has progressed I have noticed how the hospital pharmacist career trajectory narrows significantly and having spent my entire career focussed on clinical service provision there was a risk I could become typecast.  I’m sure that I am not the only clinical pharmacist to encounter this challenge and I had reached the cross-roads of what to do next.

The Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellowship scheme
This led me to researching other opportunities and successfully applying for the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellowship.  This programme provides early career pharmacists with the opportunity to learn more about leadership via an apprenticeship style fellowship sponsored by Dr Keith Ridge – Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at NHS England - and managed by the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management.  The 12 clinical fellows work across national bodies and whilst we gain unique experiences from being based in one organisation this fellowship provides the opportunity to work with medical and dental fellows and get involved in projects that cross the healthcare system. This rounded experience allows the fellows to lead projects, shadow senior pharmacy leaders, learn about healthcare policy and contribute clinical insight to national work streams.   

Education and training
I am currently working at the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) which is commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) to provide educational resources to all GPhC registered pharmacy professionals in England.    It also provides learning resources to support pre-registration pharmacists to develop their portfolio and to pass the pre-registration exam. Take a look at the CPPE website to find out more about how CPPE can support pharmacists at all stages of their career.

Whilst I had been a diploma mentor, and supported junior pharmacists via clinical based reviews and local educational sessions I had not had significant education and training roles.  I have learnt a lot about educational theory and delivering training on a national scale whilst also being able to contribute my experience and knowledge as a front-line clinical pharmacist.

Education and training is intrinsic to the professions development especially as pharmacist roles are becoming more diverse and the increasing expectations of pharmacy services from the general public and the wider healthcare system.  

Pharmacist career pathway
This year I have had the opportunity to learn more about the development of pharmacist’s careers and the move away from the single sector roles that I have been used to.  A criticism of the pharmacy career has been the potential for roles to be “siloed” with pharmacists working in each sector having unique skill sets which aren’t easily transferable.  The vision of the NHS long term plan is to integrate services across local systems and therefore having a pharmacy workforce, from undergraduates to chief pharmacists, that understand population based services and that is flexible and adaptable to work across organisations  will enable pharmacy services to be at the forefront of this change. It is an exciting time to be a pharmacist and irrespective of pharmacy sector there are opportunities to get involved in new and innovative services that benefit patient care.

Leadership and reflection
Reflecting on my role and career as a future pharmacy leader has enabled me to understand that the skills I developed as a clinical pharmacist are applicable and transferable to a variety of other settings, for example:

Working as part of the MDT

  • teamwork towards a common goal
  • recognising people’s strengths
  • enabling people to contribute

Guideline writing

  • information gathering and problem solving
  • stakeholder engagement
  • negotiating skills

Drug expenditure

  • analysing data
  • reporting and tracking performance against targets

I have had the luxury of being able to “stop and look around” this year, this reflection has been invaluable in identifying my strengths, my drivers and gaps in my knowledge and skill set.  Having access to senior pharmacy leaders who are implementing policy change to improve medicines safety and patient care has been inspiring and they have helped guide me in future career decisions. It really has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and has opened my eyes to the future of pharmacy outside of my secondary care bubble. I have been able to learn about parts of pharmacy I didn’t know existed and I understand more about the NHS strategy.


I have been able to explore how leadership and values are entwined and it has consolidated my belief that people who are supported in a culture that is fair, inclusive and encouraging will look to improve, innovate and think differently.  I am fortunate to have encountered this through my career and I am now looking to provide that to other pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

The fellowship has also provided me with the opportunity to be involved in TEDxNHS.  We are the largest TEDx licence holder in the world and have the chance to share the inspirational stories and ideas through from the extraordinary people within our NHS.  This will involve organising a one-off TEDx conference for NHS staff, live-streaming to NHS organisations, and potential satellite events around England. This conference will be open to all NHS workers to attend, keep an eye out for promotion of this event at an NHS organisation near you, and if you get the chance, come along to be inspired by the immense creativity and innovation of our NHS workforce.

The future?
The great attribute of the pharmacy profession is the wide breadth of knowledge and skills we have and our a position to work with patients and other healthcare professionals to shape patient care across the health and social care system to improve people’s lives.  

Pharmacy needs to work collaboratively and to not “pigeon hole” ourselves into clinical, technical, community or industry silos and grab the opportunity to lead system wide change across the NHS.  Future pharmacists need to look beyond organisational boundaries when planning their careers and consider how they can work with their peers to lead pharmacy in new and exciting ways.


This article was written by Mark Clymer Chief Pharmaceutical Officer's Clinical Fellow (CPPE) 2018/19





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