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“The satisfaction of knowing you have helped a fellow pharmacist to cope with a difficult period in their life is second to none.”

To mark the 25th birthday of our Listening Friends service, we caught up with Nina*, a volunteer for ten years, to find out how volunteering impacts her own sense of wellbeing.

Listening Friends is our peer support service offering members of our pharmacy family the opportunity to speak anonymously and in confidence to a trained volunteer pharmacist. It provides those working or studying in pharmacy an opportunity to talk about the pressures they may face so they can try and find clarity and solutions.

Hi Nina, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?

I’m a community pharmacist with a lot of experience in the sector. At present, I am a locum pharmacist but I have been a manager in the past. I live on my own and have a son and a daughter.

How long have you been a Listening Friend for?

I have been a Listening Friend for ten years now and I love doing it.

What inspired you to become a Listening Friend?

Several years ago, one of my male colleagues committed suicide and it made me realise that the stresses that come with being a pharmacist may have contributed to his death. I made the decision to become a Listening Friend in the hope that it may help others, even if in only a small way.

What makes you return to the Listening Friend role every year?

The companionship and support of my fellow Listening Friends when we meet. We are a close network of friends who support each other and have a laugh. And of course, the knowledge that many of my callers have clearly valued the service.

Broadly speaking, what type of concerns do callers talk about?

There is no typical caller. I would say that trainee pharmacists need a lot of support and worry about exams and lack a lot of confidence in their ability. It’s an isolating and difficult year for them. Poor relationships with a superior or tutor and disciplinary issues have occasionally led to mental health problems and sick leave. Just recently I have seen an increase in pharmacy proprietors who have business worries.

Do you have advice for anyone who wants to talk but hasn’t taken that step to contact Pharmacist Support?

Please ring us! Every Listening Friend is a pharmacist and trained listener. We will have at least an idea of your concerns as many of us may have experienced something similar at some time in our career.

How does volunteering impact your own wellbeing?

It’s rewarding to know you may have helped someone in some way, even if small, to improve their life. It lifts my spirits and I feel good when I finish a case.

What have you learnt since being a Listening Friend?

As I have developed my skills, I’ve realised that I am capable of empathy but I can step back if I feel I’m getting too emotionally involved. I was always scared I wouldn’t be able to do this!

What would you say to someone considering becoming a Listening Friend?

If you have an hour a week to give to someone else, go for it. The satisfaction of knowing you have helped a fellow pharmacist to cope with a difficult period in their life is second to none. You won’t regret it.

Why do you think Giving to others is important?

You have to give in order to receive! Giving is important for everyone to boost their wellbeing and self-worth.

We are currently recruiting more Listening Friends! If you’re interested in volunteering for Pharmacist Support, you can apply via our website. Come and join the team, we look forward to meeting you!

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