The power of mutual support has been our guiding light

Amira is Guirguis is the MPharm Programme Director at Swansea University Medical School. In this story, she shares how her team has fostered a positive workplace wellbeing culture.

I’m Amira, a registered pharmacist and MPharm Programme Director at Swansea University Medical School.

As a Pharmacy Programme Director within Higher Education, my role goes beyond overseeing academic curricula and ensuring the quality of education. It extends to caring for the mental health and wellbeing of my colleagues. Pharmacists in all sectors of the profession can experience stress and pressure due to the demanding nature of their role – and this is no different for an academic pharmacist. A positive workplace culture is essential as it fosters an environment where individuals feel valued, supported, and motivated to excel. As someone who has walked the path of a single parent while pursuing my own education and career development, I have experienced firsthand how essential it is to create an environment where everyone feels valued and supported.

One of the key pillars is creating a supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns.

In our close-knit community at Swansea University, we have fostered an environment where it’s perfectly acceptable to acknowledge personal struggles. Life is not always plain sailing, and the pressures can sometimes feel overwhelming. By creating a space where colleagues can openly discuss their challenges, we have been able to offer each other the support and understanding needed during those tough times. I have implemented regular check-ins with my team members, providing a safe space for them to express any challenges they may be facing, whether work-related or personal. This practice not only allows me to offer support through mentoring on stress management, resilience, and self-care, but also ensures that everyone feels heard and understood. Positive mental health practices have a ripple effect on students, thus, contributing to producing competent and empathetic pharmacists.

A welcoming workplace embraces diversity and supports individuals from all walks of life.

As a single parent who embarked on the journey of studying pharmacy as a mature student, I have learned that life’s twists and turns can lead us down unexpected paths. In our workplace, we have made it a point to ensure that every colleague, regardless of their background or circumstances, feels like an integral part of the team. With my contributions to establish a new school of Pharmacy, the second school of Pharmacy in Wales in 100 years, the pressures were sometimes overwhelming. However, the power of mutual support has been our guiding light. I have been fortunate to work with colleagues who genuinely care about each other’s wellbeing. Our bond extends beyond the confines of our roles; it is about being there for one another during both personal challenges and professional highs.

Pursuing a career in pharmacy after returning to education later in life has taught me the importance of flexibility and understanding.

We have welcomed colleagues who have navigated similar journeys, whether it is balancing parenthood with work or pursuing education as mature students. In our workplace, we have offered flexible hours and remote work options, recognising the unique demands these situations can bring. It is about showing empathy and supporting one another as we all strive to find that delicate balance. Mentoring and coaching colleagues e.g. those returning from maternity leave, and mentoring junior colleagues empowers them to navigate their careers and address challenges. It is about nurturing talent, recognising individual struggles, and championing skills. Just as I have had mentors and allies who guided me on my journey, I have had the privilege of paying it forward by helping others unlock their potential. It is a testament to the power of teamwork and shared growth.

Work is a significant part of our lives, but it is not the only part. We have encouraged our team to strike a healthy work-life balance. This shared commitment to self-care has not only improved our wellbeing but was also reflected in the student feedback.

Together, we can cultivate a healthier and more resilient pharmacy profession for the future.

Juggling academic and clinical work, we recognised challenges are opportunities for learning and development.

Together, we have nurtured a collective growth mindset. We have recognised that setbacks are not failures but steppingstones to success. This shared perspective has helped us overcome obstacles and achieve our goals together. While I have actively implemented these practices, I have also been on the receiving end of good mental health and wellbeing practices in my workplace. As someone who had a life-changing surgery that required flexibility in my work schedule, I have been grateful for the understanding and accommodation I have received from my workplace. This flexibility allowed me to navigate difficult periods without compromising my professional responsibilities. The support I have received from my colleagues and institution has been instrumental in my ability to thrive in my career.

Fostering a positive workplace culture centred around mental health and wellbeing is not just a job for me; it is a personal mission.

By being there for each other, understanding individual struggles, and promoting a healthy work-life balance, we’ve created a work environment where everyone can thrive. Pharmacist Support has played a critical role in initiating campaigns, providing information and resources to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, opening discussions on peer support groups, allowing pharmacy colleagues to connect with others facing similar challenges, and creating a strong support network. I encourage all pharmacy leaders to embrace these practices and make them an integral part of their leadership approach. Together, we can cultivate a healthier and more resilient pharmacy profession for the future.

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