Lisa Nwankwo, specialist antimicrobials pharmacist

Can you describe what you do day-to-day?Lisa Nwankwo

My activities vary every day, and this is what makes my job so exciting. One minute I am deep diving into the un-ending sea of patient data, to understand trends, to create reports and articles that will advise and impact on the care given to a patient, and the next minute I am talking to a patient about whether or not the symptoms they are experiencing could be medication related. My role as a pharmacist is to tell patients what to look out for and what to do if they get a side effect from their medication.

I also attend and contribute to the daily infection rounds on wards, and I answer any questions healthcare professionals have. The round wards are multidisciplinary team meetings, which means they are attended by nurses, doctors, ward pharmacists and specialist antimicrobials pharmacist like me. This multidisciplinary approach means we can optimise the treatment for patients by tailoring the treatment to the specific patient, checking to see how they respond and continually tweaking until there is an improvement in health. In these rounds we consider the antibiotic being prescribed, what may have been prescribed before, what the patient’s bloodwork is telling us in terms of presence (or absence) of infection, and how they may be responding (or not) to the suggested antibiotic.

My role also allows me to write and contribute to the guidelines on infection prevention control, publish articles, provide advice, and I even teach pharmacy students. There is a lot of administrative work involved in dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, such as liaising with other departments, consultants, nurses. I have my hand in both clinical and academic work, and this is a positive symbiotic relationship, both feeding on and into each other.

What do you like most about your job?

I like that it has given me the ability to define how I can be useful to patients, and how I can make a positive impact on their care. It allows me the room to continually push the boundaries of what can be done, to test theories, to grow, to question, to learn all the time, and applying new knowledge to practice.

Which part of your job is most challenging?

Two things:

1. Workload. I want to do everything yesterday (it’s my nature!) and I never want to say no.  Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

2. Another challenging thing is navigating difficult conversations with patients. Often patients want to hear you tell them that everything will be ok, that outcomes will be great, and that things are looking up in terms of their health. I find these discussions difficult to navigate, as the empath in me WANTS to tell them ‘Yes! everything will be OK’, but I am also aware of the restrictions and limitations of medicine. Hence my passion for wanting to research and continually find solutions that will improve patient care.

What is the best/funniest thing a patient has ever said to you?

Best thing is when patients are thankful to the Brompton, and they express gratitude to me for how they have been treated within the hospital. This lifts my spirit. Funniest thing? When asking a male patient for their medication history and they say, ‘ask the wife, she’s the boss of everything!’

Why did you decide to work in healthcare?

In choosing a career, I knew from early on that I had to work in a ‘serving’ industry. Honestly everything else seemed comparatively dull. I love to talk to and interact with people, so working in the hospitality industry was another option I had considered but my desire to make things better for people who were ill won over. And what I love about healthcare is that, at least in the UK, it screams: PATIENT FIRST! And I love this. You see this within pharmacy a lot. It is a common thread during meetings, in clinical and academic settings, and it is the underbelly of decisions made by our pharmacy management.