Career breaks and changes of sector: Challenges for the revalidation of pharmacists

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Taking a career break or moving between sectors of practice (for example, between patient-facing and non-patient-facing roles) often has been assumed to pose a risk for pharmacists' fitness to practice. However, it is not clear what the nature of that risk is, or what its implications are for professional revalidation.


To explore: (i) the experiences of pharmacists who either return to practice following a career break or move from one sector of practice to another; and (ii) the experiences of those who support or observe pharmacists undergoing one of these changes.


Eighteen registered pharmacists in Northern Ireland, all of whom had either undergone a change in practice themselves or had supported another pharmacist through a change in practice, took part in a telephone-based interview. During the interviews, each participant was invited to reflect upon his or her experiences of the change and suggest ways in which such processes should be handled in the future. The interview transcripts were thematically analysed using template analysis.


A number of themes captured the issues discussed relating to changes in practice. Firstly, there is a variety of circumstances surrounding a change in practice; secondly, there are various ways in which a pharmacist can prepare for a change in practice; thirdly, a number of factors were thought to facilitate or hinder the process. Finally, training and development needs were identified for pharmacists undergoing a change.


A revalidation scheme for pharmacists should make provision for registrants who have taken a career break or changed sector. Such registrants would benefit from resources to support them through the change in practice; these resources could come from peers, employers, or the regulator.

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