Galapagos article series -
Portfolio Development


This article discusses why pharmacists should develop a portfolio, what options are available and how best to gather the evidence and build the portfolio. After reading this article, pharmacists should be able to plan their next steps, if they wish to develop a portfolio. The article has been written in collaboration with Consultant Pharmacist and Clinical Lead RPUK, Hilary McKee (Antrim), who has experience in assessing consultant portfolios, and Lead Rheumatology Specialist Pharmacist and Chair RPUK, Kalveer Flora (London), who has recently embarked on the portfolio building journey herself. Our experts share their insights and best practice tips for all rheumatology pharmacists to take their career to the next level.

Portfolio development

There are many reasons why pharmacists should develop a portfolio, not least because it will be required for those who wish to practise at a consultant level. Even for those who haven't reached consultant level, a portfolio can be beneficial because it promotes professional development by laying out the requirements for practicing at every level. A portfolio guides towards actions needed to be undertaken for further development. For example, research work is a fundamental part in pharmacists' portfolio.

A portfolio can help identify learning gaps and areas of strength

In a way, a portfolio ensures standardisation at the level pharmacists practice at. Mapping skills is done against a standard framework and any learning needs or skills that need to be attained are identified through a needs assessment. Pharmacists can then work on what experience they need to fill the gaps and work with their teams to achieve this, for example, lead an audit or a quality improvement project. By regularly tracking the portfolio, working towards filling the gaps can feel achievable.1,2

For me, completing my portfolio is a useful exercise to help me identify areas I need to focus more time on. It also ensures I'm working at the same level as my colleagues and that I can provide the best level of care to patients.

- Lead Rheumatology Specialist Pharmacist and Chair RPUK, Kalveer Flora (London)

A portfolio is also a great tool to aid the reflection process on how to improve and move forward. It allows pharmacists to reflect on what the learning needs are to progress, as well as reflect on gaps in experience. The online portfolio has its own section for reflection, where details and thoughts can be recorded. 1,2

Reasons to build a portfolio:1,2
  • Record evidence of your practice as you progress through your career
  • Identify areas of strengths as well as learning gaps
  • Assess your practice against relevant frameworks
  • Focus and plan your professional development

A portfolio helps shape achievements and all the skills, knowledge and attributes acquired. It is more than just what has been achieved at the workplace, it's also what has been achieved across systems and borders that show professional reach is wider than just the local clinic. Achievements and accreditation can also assure stakeholders outside of pharmacy.2

Ultimately, it is the patients that benefit. Practising at an advanced level means patients have access to specialist pharmacists, who are leaders in their field. Furthermore, pharmacist-led clinics can have a positive impact on patients' waiting times as there is a wider team involved in patient care.1

Research is a fundamental domain included in the portfolio

There is a big drive now, more than ever before, for pharmacists to conduct research. Within the frameworks, there is a specific domain focussing on research needs. Naturally, completing an accreditation process can help set pharmacists apart. For example, upon successful accreditation, the RPS will permit the use of nominals.1,2

Pharmacists should not underestimate their ability to conduct research, although research is one of the most difficult domains for pharmacists to achieve. Not all hospitals are affiliated with universities, which may make conducting research difficult to establish. In addition, research takes a considerable amount of time which is not normally factored into a job plan. However, research doesn't always have to be onerous, it could be as simple as collecting real-world data about a new drug or responses to patient outcomes. Audits and quality improvement (QI) are equally important within this domain, but pharmacists should recognise and be aware of the differences between an audit and QI.2

If pharmacists wish to become Principal Investigators on large research projects, they need to have high-level experience and ability to reflect on situations and recognise needs for improvement.1

Which portfolio to choose?

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) describes the career of a pharmacist in four stages: MPharm, pre-registration, foundation, and faculty (Image 1).3 Lastly, there's also consultant level. There is a portfolio programme to suit any stage of the career after registration. This article focuses on the Faculty and Consultant portfolios. For more information on the Foundation Portfolio, see the RPS webpages. 

Image 1. Timeline of pharmacists' career and respective portfolios.
Adapted from RPS Professional Development for Every Stage of Your Career 3

Faculty portfolio

Faculty is a professional development programme for pharmacists who have completed a minimum of two years post registration experience. The three stages of Faculty are Advanced Stage One, Advanced Stage Two and Mastery. The stage awarded at completion is dependent on the evidence of impact you can demonstrate consistently. The definition for Mastery includes pharmacists who are practicing consistently and in a demonstrably sustained manner, in highly complex environments and in very senior roles in the profession locally, regionally, and nationally. The Faculty assessment process is described in Image 2.

Image 2. The RPS Faculty assessment process.
APP, Advanced Practice Portfolio; PAT, Peer Assessment Tool; REPP, Record of Expert Professional Practice.
Adapted from RPS, Getting Started with RPS Career Development Programmes4

The advanced practice portfolio (APP) is an online tool, available through the RPS website and part of the Faculty assessment. It allows pharmacists to gather evidence of development, map it against the RPS Advanced Pharmacy Framework (APF) competencies and identify what stage they are currently practicing through self-assessment.5

APF Guidance helps when building a portfolio and writing the entries. The six clusters of Advanced Professional Practice (APF) cover the core pharmacy practice areas:5
  • Expert Professional Practice
  • Collaborative Working Relationships
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Education, Training and Development
  • Research and Evaluation

Pharmacists should provide their best evidence to showcase the depth of the advanced practice. At least one or two pieces of evidence should be mapped against each of the 34 APF competencies. Ideally, assessors like to see between 25 and 45 unique pieces of evidence in a portfolio submission. Creating an entry almost every month, over a five-year period should result in around 50 entries.5

Consultant portfolio

The RPS have also developed a portfolio accreditation for those who feel their level of practice is consultant ready. The consultant E-portfolio is different to the APP. The E-portfolio can be flexible, so that the elements can be worked through independently, or as instructed by a training provider. The E-portfolio contains forms and templates to enable the consultant-ready pharmacist to fulfil and meet the outcomes and descriptors as outlined in the Consultant Pharmacist curriculum.6

A Portfolio should show how competencies have been achieved

A portfolio should reflect and demonstrate the learning, experience, and professional achievements within a defined role. To do this, a variety of examples can be included, such as skills assessments, entries of continuing professional development (CPD), testimonials, and structured assessments.2

By structuring the content well, a portfolio becomes accessible, easy-to-navigate and understandable. Ensuring entries are clear can be done by keeping the evidence concise but thorough. Examples of portfolios can be viewed online, which can give ideas how best to structure the evidence. 1,2

A portfolio is a record of what has been achieved and what is still to be achieved. Education is a continual process, you never get to the point where it becomes unnecessary or unimportant.

- Consultant Pharmacist and Clinical Lead RPUK, Hilary Mckee (Antrim)

Evidence can be made robust by ensuring mapping has been done correctly. It is important to specifically show how the criteria have been met. The evidence should demonstrate the level needed to achieve the competence. Each portfolio is unique, and pharmacists need to choose the best samples of work to represent their skills. Generally speaking, strong examples are the ones where it can be clearly shown how the competence has been achieved. Anything that has been done regionally, nationally, and internationally is of high value, and publications also rank highly. An assessor confirms that competencies can be achieved independently and more than once, and feedback from assessors and peers is always important. Further help can also be found in the RPS handbook.1,2 

Once all achievements have been listed, they can be mapped against the APF competencies. The list can include all study days, courses and learning events attended, and each item should also have details on how the achievement changed your practice. Each activity is then listed under the most suitable competency. This mapping process should be straightforward, although it can be time consuming? Faculty members say it takes between 30 and 80 hours to complete a portfolio.5

Resources for suitable evidence to include in a portfolio:5
  • Your CV or job description can help identify your key achievements and evidence
  • Significant pieces of work such as major projects, committee roles, publications, presentations, policies and guidelines, contributions to service development, business and financial projects, staffing changes.
  • Other examples could be an audit you have led, working with local GPs, LPC or other equivalent in different countries, documentation from queries, interventions, or problems you have resolved, business plans or strategy documents.
  • Your recent CPD entries or Performance Development Review from your line manager
  • Your Foundation portfolio and RITA (if applicable)
  • Your Faculty portfolio and Assessment Report (if applicable)

Pharmacists should also be aware of possible pitfalls. It is important to understand what exactly each competency is asking for. Reflecting on the entries will help to check that they meet the requirements. Entries shouldn't be made into something that they aren't, because the assessor will be familiar with the clinical area and see through these flaws immediately.1

It isn't necessary to keep a day-to-day record of the clinical activity. However, it is important to record all the events when new things or skills have been learned. This is also part of the mandatory, monthly CPD records for the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). In fact, there is a specific area in the portfolio, where mandatory CPD to GPhc can be recorded. The current requirement is one CPD per month depending on your submissions, although requirements can vary in different regions.1,2 

Keeping up to date with mandatory CPD will also keep the portfolio relevant and current. The world of medicines is always changing, so it is vital to keep on top of changes and ensure new skills are being acquired. It's a good idea to set targets and goals, reflect, identify gaps in learning and push oneself. To best achieve this, regular reviews of the portfolio are essential.1

Showcasing clinical and/or prescribing activity comes as part of the Record of Expert Professional Practice (REPP) in the Faculty portfolio. This is where in-depth knowledge of the drug or therapy area is demonstrated. Pharmacists need to prove they can plan, manage, monitor, advise and review complex pharmaceutical care programmes for patients in a defined area. A record of prescribing interventions or interesting cases can also be kept.2

Lastly, it is paramount that patients or staff cannot be identified from the portfolio entries. This can be achieved by ensuring confidentiality and not referring to names or titles.1,2

For further reading, there are plenty of FAQs and frameworks on the RPS website including videos of how to fill in a portfolio.


Building a portfolio is worth the patience and time needed

It may seem like completing a portfolio is an arduous task but being patient and doing it in bitesize pieces will help. It is good to ask for help, too, as there are many resources, and peers and mentors who have gone through the same process. The RPS have a pool of assessors and they also have webinars as well as a FAQ section on their website.1,2  The RPS Professional Support Team can support in building a portfolio, regardless of the stage of practice.

Building a portfolio is not a race nor competition, so there is no need to as the competence or task has been completed. Pharmacists are all extremely busy, but it helps to set a timeline and stick to it. In a busy practice it is easy to get carried away with the day-to-day tasks without taking the time to reflect on what could be improved. Yet, it is vitally important for all of us to keep developing our skills.1

It is always useful to look back and see all the achievements accumulated over time. It can help focus on the future, so personal learning needs can be identified, and the next career level achieved.2

Download our Portfolio Development infographic 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING: 1. Clinical experience and insights from Consultant Pharmacist and Clinical Lead RPUK, Hilary Mckee (Antrim). 2. Clinical experience and insights from Lead Rheumatology Specialist Pharmacist and Chair RPUK, Kalveer Flora (London). 3. 1. RPS, Professional Development for Every Stage of Your Career. Available at: [Accessed August 2022]. 4. RPS, Getting Started with RPS Career Development Programmes. Available at: [Accessed August 2022]. 5. RPS, Portfolio development and support. Available at: [Accessed August 2022]. 6. RPS, Consultant Pharmacist Credentialing. Available at: [Accessed August 2022]

GB-RA-NA-202208-00001  | Date of preparation: December 2022