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Barry O’Sullivan, ACMA, CGMA

Senior Pharmacist

"I think CIMA is unique in the way you can accumulate qualifications as you progress so your work is rewarded frequently rather than an all or nothing award like a degree after several years."

Barry O'Sullivan is a Senior Pharmacist at The Mater Private Hospital, in Cork. Take a look at Barry’s story and professional achievements.

Tell us a bit about your current role?

I’m a Pharmacist in a very busy, medium sized private hospital in Cork. The Mater Private Hospital, Cork has a staff of about 500. It’s a very diverse and challenging role, but I relish it.On the wards, I am involved in the clinical care of patients, ensuring medications are safe and appropriate for the patients under our care. Healthcare delivery is all about the team and so we work side by side with the other clinical teams to deliver the best possible care. 

In additional to clinical input, I am involved in:

  • staff training and development relating to medication,
  • education of patient’s and their families
  • clinical governance and auditing for medication and documentation
  • writing and implantation of policies and procedures
  • problem solving in any matter associated with to medications, from supply to reimbursement and all elements in between!

Initially the Pharmacy function was outsourced, so I was an external contractor working for a client and so external and internal stakeholder management  and negotiating were  core aspects of my daily work. 

Since March 2020, Pharmacy has been brought in house and so I used a lot of the CIMA skills like scenario planning, stakeholder engagement and problem solving to aid in making that change as smooth as possible.

Why did you choose CIMA?

Having completed the Corporate MBA in the University of Limerick, I wanted something to build on that base rather than something separate to it. Having attended one of the CIMA open evenings, I felt it was a good fit for me. I like that it could take it at my own pace, one exam at a time. The course material had a lot of similarities to topics I had already covered with more of a financial focus on some topics like management. 

What have you found about the experience on studying for CIMA exams so far? 

On the whole, I found it very positive experience studying for the Gateway exam. The material was interesting and challenging so study wasn’t an onerous task. I like how the focus of the exams is very much on real world problems that businesses face, so the problem solving skills being developed in advance of the exam are practical and realistic.

Why did you decide to switch your studies with CIMA to the CGMA Finance Leadership Program (FLP)?

Working in healthcare during a global pandemic I felt that having a course I could progress with, at my own pace made sense. I had spoken with Claire Lambert from CIMA who pointed out a number of other benefits of this pathway too. I really like that as you complete each subject you get a certificate from CIMA. It is a very easy way to show on your CV the progress you are making. With the original pathway, I felt you had nothing until you had the last exam passed, so for those working at it in phases, it is more difficult to show progress. There was significant financial savings with the CGMA Finance Leadership Program (FLP) and also as it is direct with CIMA, I like that you are using CIMA's own notes.

What did you struggle with on the journey to pass your CIMA exams? And what would be the positive element towards your CIMA journey?

Concurrent to studying for the Gateway exam, I was also studying the Yellow Belt in Lean Six Sigma. Although not a big workload, it did reduce my time available to study, so planning for the week was done on a Sunday night, a simple 10 minute task but it ensured all study requirements were met in time. Have graduated from the MBA program in January 2019, I was still in the study mind frame and so sitting down to study wasn’t a challenge for me. I love learning, especially when it has a positive impact on the focus of my professional life: patients. 

As you have experience studying both CIMA routes, what advice would you give to anyone who is in doubt of choosing the self-directed route to the CIMA Professional Qualification or join our new CGMA Finance Leadership Program?

I feel the benefits of the CGMA Finance Leadership Program significantly outweigh the self-directed route. The online platform is very easy to navigate, the resources are clear and robust, and the support is very prompt.

How has CIMA accelerated your career? 

The value CIMA has added to my current role, I believe, can be seen in the change in the way I view issues. The CIMA exam questions seek a wider, multi layered consideration of a problem and the ripple out effects of an event. This is immensely useful for my working life as one issue such as a medication shortage, a very common place occurrence these days, can bring with it a  whole raft of considerations such as sourcing of alternative medications, protocols, staff training, governance aspects, financial impacts and so on.The CIMA study has really helped me view such issues in their totality and set about reducing the turbulence they can cause.

When you were studying the self-directed route to the CIMA Professional Qualification, what mode of delivery of CIMA learning worked best for you; whether online, face to face or a blend? Did you have a preferred provider? Why did this work so well for you? 

I used a third party online tutor, for the study material for the gateway exam. On the whole, being able to view recorded lectures when I had availability was useful, additional to notes and past exam papers. The modular aspect of CIMA, the different exams and subjects, lends itself to self timetabled study well. Ultimately, its up to you to sit and study if you want to progress, not your material provider.

Do people have any misconceptions about your role and your profession in general?

For most people, when they think of a Pharmacist, they think of the dispensing aspect of the job. Checking medications against prescriptions etc, but that’s just one aspect. There are unseen professional and operations aspects allowing that to happen. Pharmacist’s have mandatory CPD requirements to ensure we are staying current. This very welcome directive, ensures patients are receiving up to date Pharmaceutical care. There are aspects such as supply chain management, clinical input and medical information, policy and procedure development, education provision, counselling and so on that often go unseen.
Pharmacists act as a conduit to contextualized clinical information and, especially those working in Community Pharmacy, are readily available for consultation with anyone that needs their input.

Is your employer supporting your studies? Why does your employer prefer you study CIMA?

My  studies have been self supported both financially and in terms of study time. I used annual leave to attend lectures for the MBA but only needed 1-2 days annual leave for CIMA thus far. I think it shows how flexible CIMA can be around your life and with the selection of when you want to sit exams, you can really make it work for yourself.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying towards the CIMA qualification or on the journey to become a CIMA member?

There is never a perfect time to do anything, so just go for it. CIMA is very well structured in terms of exam layout being relevant to the working reality. I think CIMA is unique in the way you can accumulate qualifications as you progress so your work is rewarded frequently rather than an all or nothing award like a degree after several years. 

Master finance on your terms. 

Discover the new digital-first pathway to the CIMA Qualification: the CGMA Finance Leadership Program (FLP).

  • Online learning program, intuitive interface, mobile-friendly.  
  • Exact same syllabus as the Professional qualification.

Find out more