By Dr Sara Garfield, Research Associate, NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, Institute of Global Health Innovation
At IGHI’s NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, I lead research projects relating to the role that patients and carers can play in making sure medicines are used safely.
I decided to study pharmacy as I have a strong interest in chemistry, biology and health. During my pre-registration training, one of things I very much enjoyed was organising health promotion activities. I was also always interested in talking to patients about medicines and empowering them in their healthcare.
After a year of working as a pharmacist I wanted to focus more on this part of the role. I carried out a research project for my PhD about how patients find taking antidepressant medication. I wanted to understand more about their experiences and how they made decisions about their medicine. Moving forwards, I have carried out research projects on different health conditions, but always with the patient and their family at the centre.
The most rewarding aspect of my role is knowing my work can make a difference to people’s lives. For example, people have told me that as a result of being involved in a recent project of ours, they now carry information with them about their medicines. This could be very helpful to them in emergencies or when moving between different healthcare settings.
On the other hand, it can sometimes be difficult to know what impact you are having through your work and how much difference you are making on a larger scale. Sometimes bureaucracy can be challenging too.
I am currently leading a study looking at how people who are shielding are managing with their medicines during the pandemic. Through this work, I am hoping to help everyone prepare for any future spikes of the virus. I also hope this will help us learn how to better support housebound people with their medicines in ‘normal’ times.
It is this chance to make a difference that drives me most in my work. I was recently asked what I would like to do if I wasn’t doing my current job. I replied that there is nothing else I would rather be doing.