Leicesterâ€™s lucky day
When we do MURS andÂ NMS interventions, I act as translator. Doing them for Polish people would not be possible without me here
The Key Staff award winner at the Independent Pharmacy Awards in 2015 was Magdalena Wolynska of Patels Chemist, Leicester. Douglas Simpson went to the city to find out more about this special pharmacy staff member
It was a lucky day for Patels Chemist when Magdalena, who is of Polish origin, walked though their door looking for a job. It enabled them to add a new dimension to their businessÂ by looking after the needs of the local Polish community.
And it was a lucky day for Magdalena, as, ever since she set foot in the pharmacy, she has been able to pursue her quest for greater knowledge and self-improvement.
Patels Chemist has boosted business and Magdalena has gone from being a counter assistant to an accuracy-checking technician with managerial responsibilities, all within the space of five years.
Magdalena first left Poland in 2004, when she went to Greece to seek work. After a spell in a Greek restaurant, she came to England in 2005, and got work, again, in a Greek restaurant.
Her first taste of pharmacy was when she got a job at Walkers Pharmacy in Acton, London, where she worked on the counter. While there, she completed the NPAâ€™s medicines counter assistant course.
How did she find her first taste of employment in pharmacy?
â€œI really enjoyed the work and very much liked the people I was working with.â€
The year 2007 saw a move to Leicester with her fiancÃ© (now her husband) and a desire to find a job in pharmacy once again.
Clutching her CV, she entered the Patels Chemist premises in Narborough Road, Leicester. But, on seeing the size of the business, she walked out again with her CV still in her bag.
â€œI thought the place was far too big to take me on,â€ she says.
A short while later, she saw a notice in the window of the same pharmacy about a staff vacancy and this time had the courage to hand in her CV. A job as a counter assistant was the result.
Magdalena was, she says, excited to get the job. But she soon had other ambitions.Â â€œI asked the pharmacist if I could work in the dispensary.â€
This request was granted and led toÂ NVQ 2 and NVQ 3 passes and eventual qualification as an accuracy-checking technician. Still keen to learn, Magdalena went on to earn a certificate in team leading from further education body the NCFE.Â All this was done with full encouragement from her employers.
Her managerial role took off when pharmacist manager Tejal Pancholi wentÂ on maternity leave. Magdalena successfully assumed much of the team management responsibilities of the branch, which is open from 9am to 8.30pm every day of the year, including Christmas day, and has a staff of between 27 and 30.
During that time, she organised staff rotas and responsibilities, and dealt with holiday requests and absence management. She also took on responsibility for staff training, seasonal promotions and inter-branch communications. (Patels Chemist is part of the Morningside Healthcare group of eight pharmacies.)
With Tejal back from maternity leave and working part time, many of these duties have continued. In addition, she doesÂ the monthly prescription returns and is responsible for ordering.
But it is Magdalenaâ€™s support for the local Polish community that is key to her role.
Tejal says: â€œOver the years, she has attracted many Polish people to the pharmacy and word has spread. More and more people from all over Leicester come to seek her advice. Many times a day people come in and say: â€˜Can I speak to the Polish lady?â€™ She has helped the business a lot.â€
There is a big Polish community in Leicester, especially round the Narborough Road pharmacy. How does the relationship with the Polish community work?
Says Magdalena: â€œThey come to me and ask for advice. I ring GPs on their behalf and also get in touch with hospitals. SomeÂ of them will have been on medicationÂ in Poland and I help them to find the equivalent in England and ask the doctors if they can prescribe it. I have helped Polish people to register with GPs. When weÂ do MUR and NMS interventions, I act as translator. Doing them for Polish people would not be possible without me here.â€
One particular instance of her advice being sought stands out in Magdalenaâ€™s mind. â€œA Polish family came in and asked for help for their daughterâ€™s leg pains.Â I encouraged them to go to the hospital, as the pain was not reducing in any way.
â€œThe girl was found to have a rare condition that has to be managed with different medicines. We now ensure that the girl gets all the medicines she needs. The family have now become my close friends.â€
As well as dealing with over-the-counter requests from Polish people, Magdalena also helps in the provision of pharmacy services. Currently, she is helping four Polish menÂ in their quest to quit smoking. Has she had many successful quitters?Â â€œLoads.â€
Other services she helps with include healthy life-style advice, blood pressure checks, EHC, chlamydia testing, weight management, flu vaccinations and cholesterol testing.Â She has been of particular help in recruiting for flu vaccinations, Tejal says.
Magdalenaâ€™s work with her compatriots is not confined to Narborough Road.â€œOther branches in the company phone for help with Polish patients."
Magdalena takes her work outside the pharmacy and has run a health awareness clinic after Sunday mass at a local church used by Polish people.
Magdalena is shortly to go on maternity leave for a year for her first child. How will the Polish clientele fare without her?
â€œMost of them have been coming here for a long time and we have sorted out their needs. They have built up experience and got used to the system, so the staff will be able to deal with them. The foundation has been set.â€
What if there are still problems?Â â€œI will still be on the end of the telephone.â€ How has she found working in pharmacy? â€œI was pleased to get my first job inÂ pharmacy and I like having the opportunity to learn something new every day.â€
Does she have a view on Brexit?
â€œI would have preferred it if the United Kingdom had decided to stay within the European Union.Â I have been here for 11 years so I should be OK. But you never know. Rules might be changed.â€
Morningside Healthcare has five pharmacies in Leicester (of which Narborough Road was the first), two in Northampton and one in Derby.