Community or Hospital Pharmacy?

When I qualified as a pharmacist I started working in the community as a locum pharmacist, I worked in many different community pharmacy shops. Having previously completed my pre-registration year in a hospital, I always wanted to work as a hospital pharmacist, so I ventured to work in a hospital in both permanent and locum positions.

Although the role is very similar in certain aspects and you use similar principles and guidance to approach the locum positions, there are some very distinct differences which may be useful to identify when moving from community locum to hospital locum or vice versa.

Working Hours

Firstly the working hours vary considerably. In community pharmacy, the locuming hours can vary from anything from 3 hours to 12 hours with differing start and finish times throughout the week from Monday to Sunday. On the other hand when I started working as a locum hospital pharmacist hospitals, I was surprised to learn, that the hours were much more standard – typically nine to half past five in most trusts Monday to Friday, unless you are asked to complete the pharmacy on call service or weekend work, which is not very common, from my experience, for locum pharmacists. 


Secondly, any daytime breaks for locum community pharmacists can be difficult to attain! When working as a locum in many community pharmacies I always used to crave a lunch break but because in many of the pharmacy shops you are the only responsible pharmacist, I could not take an hour off as a prescription could come in at any time. I found this very challenging particularly when I might be working a 9 or 10 hour shift. The great thing about being a locum hospital pharmacist is that your lunch break is scheduled into your working day, you normally get between 30 minutes and one hour a day, it’s really important to take a break from the busy wards or dispensary.

Induction Periods

Thirdly, the induction period tended to vary from community pharmacy to hospital pharmacy. As a locum when you start a new position, unless you’ve previously worked at that location before you won’t be familiar with the layout of the pharmacy or where everything is kept or moreover familiar with the other people that work in the pharmacy. It is common for there not to be any induction in community pharmacy at all. In this sense, I remember having to quickly identify where things were stored in the pharmacy, where the documentation was kept and to become familiar with the layout independently.

Alternatively within hospital pharmacy locum positions, all of my experiences and contracts have involved a lengthily 3-5 days induction/shadowing a fellow hospital pharmacist in that trust, and time to read standard operating procedures, complete training logs and accreditation – and sometimes even a test to demonstrate competence, as well as a chance to ask questions before starting the ward/dispensary on my own.


What differences have you found and in what setting do you prefer to work?

Aidan O'Callaghan


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