Vibha Teli, from Royal Brompton’s pharmacy department, gives a glimpse into the work she does that enables clinical trials to be run at the hospital.
A day in the life of a principal pharmacy technician
Vibha Teli is a principal pharmacy technician for clinical trials at the Trust. This involves preparing complex drugs and treatments used in clinical trials.
In my role, I'm responsible for…
The day to day management, delivery and safe and secure handling of all Investigational Medicinal Products (IMP’s) in order to provide a high-quality pharmacy clinical trials service at both the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals. IMPs can be both the medicine and the placebo to be used in a trial.
This involves going to the initial site assessment/feasibility meeting and then the site initiation visit and being responsible for the drugs used in trials.
Once the trial has been discussed my role is then to write a trial specific standard operating procedure (SOP) so our staff follow the correct dispensing and checking process there are currently over 50 trials that we're involved with!
We work closely with the investigators, study staff and the research office on setting up and carrying out clinical trials.
I am also on the steering committee for the ‘Clinical Research Delivery Forum’ where I contribute to presenting information on IMP management and related trial activities.
I got this job...
After completing a BTEC qualification in pharmaceutical services and working as a pharmacy technician at another NHS trust. A pharmacist I worked with at the time saw an advert for the clinical trials and medicines information position here and encouraged me to apply. At first, I was unsure and didn't think I had enough experience so I came to inquire about it. The team were very encouraging and provided me with on-the-job training as it was a relatively new role for pharmacy technicians to be working in clinical trials back then.
As I said, I was a bit apprehensive about the role before I applied because I’d never worked in research before but I came to like the challenge of learning something new.
A typical day for me...
Doesn’t exist because no two days are the same! But as an example, on days when I have a site initiation visit (a meeting where the sponsor makes sure we’re ready to start enrolling patients onto the clinical trial), I would prepare for the meeting by reading through the study protocol or synopsis of the trial.
I then prepare a set of questions to ask the sponsor about the drug that is being tested, to make sure we are able to carry out the trial. For example, we wouldn't be able to take on the responsibility of preparing IMP at the hospital because we do not have a manufacturing licence. We would also check the details of the trial, including the trial randomisation procedure, number of study visits, how many patients will be recruited and where the study drugs are coming from. After the meeting, I would put the information together and create a specific SOP for the trial.
On the same day I might also have a study monitoring visit at Harefield Hospital, which is when clinical research associates, on behalf of the sponsors, check to make sure that we're following the protocol for the study and to ensure that everything is in order, including all of our accountability paperwork, prescriptions, trial storage, temperature monitoring etc.
The best part of my job...
Is being able to see the drugs we use in trials become the drugs of tomorrow. It’s especially rewarding to be part of the delivery process that is potentially improving the quality of life for many of our patients, some of whom suffer from quite rare diseases.
I also really enjoy the challenge of setting up a new clinical trial and working as part of a larger team.
The worst part of my job...
Like with most jobs, sometimes the administrative parts of the role can be a little tedious. Clinical trials are very process-driven and there's a lot of paperwork but it is all part of the job because without all of that we wouldn’t be able to do clinical trials.
My thoughts on women in pharmacy and research
At the Trust, we have a significant number of female pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. The same goes for those within the department working in research like myself.
Pharmacy is a role that lends itself well to flexible working which is great and maybe that’s why we have a high number of female staff in our team as a whole.
I continuously try to develop myself...
I've always wanted to obtain more qualifications and in 2013 the Trust part funded my Master’s in Clinical Research at Cardiff University. The Master’s programme provided me with more knowledge in the field of clinical research. I already had the experience of being part of clinical trials team but to get the theory and background information really helped.
But I didn't just leave it there! When I came across the Researcher Development Programme*, I attended and found it incredibly helpful. It allowed me to use the skills I’d developed during my Masters and to think about how I could do my own research in the future. I have a few ideas for the research I want to do and hopefully later this year my plans will come to fruition. It was also a great way to meet other like-minded staff from other NHS teams in North West London interested in doing research.
How I unwind after a hard day's work
I love going to the theatre and especially enjoy musicals. I am a big tennis fan so try whenever possible to follow the major tennis events. I also like reading autobiographies and I’m currently reading about Mahatma Gandhi.
*The Researcher Development Programme is organised by the Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre, which is a partnership between Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
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