What do you do, Nanna?

Nanna Christiansen is the Chief Children’s Pharmacist at Evelina London

Colourful question marks drawn by a child

""August 2023 

What is your role? 

My name is Nanna and I am the Chief Children’s Pharmacist, so I look after everything medicines related at Evelina London.

I work with my team of about 40 technicians and pharmacists to make sure every patient gets the best and safest medicines possible.  

What made you want to work in pharmacy? 

As a child my mum had this blue box with medicines and whenever I wasn’t feeling well, she pulled something out that made me feel better – I found that endlessly fascinating. I also really enjoyed science, and after working in our local pharmacy as a summer job, the decision to study pharmacy had kind of made itself.  

I studied in Germany (I grew up in Hamburg) but moved over to the UK for part of my pre-registration year to work in a hospital. Hospital pharmacists in the UK work much more clinically and as part of the multi-disciplinary team, which really interested me.  

Right after graduating, I got my first job in the same hospital and rotated through a number of different areas, one of which was paediatrics. It quickly was clear to me that I had found my little corner – as a pharmacist, working with children really challenges you. Often we have to think a bit outside the box as a lot of medicines are not licensed in children so formulations and supporting data is often not straight forward – it challenges you to find solutions for your patients.  

When I first arrived, I wanted to stay for 2 or 3 years. 23 years later I am still here and loving it.  

How long have you worked for Evelina London and what is your favourite part of working here? 

I came to Evelina London in September 2018, so not that long compared to many of my colleagues, but it is such a nice place to work – it didn’t take long at all for it to feel like home. 

The people here are really amazing and there is a clear focus on having the child at the centre of what we do. I feel very grateful that I spend my time at work with such dedicated and nice colleagues.  

Clinically, we see a lot of really specialist and unusual cases, which is often challenging and there is not a dull moment (although on occasion I have to admit I could do with a dull moment to catch a breath)! 

What does the pharmacy team do? 

A lot of different things! First of all, we make sure all different areas of the hospital have all the medicines they need – that’s the obvious stuff. 

We have a team of clinical pharmacists and technicians on the wards every day who clinically screen all the medicines prescribed, ensuring all medications are correct and delivered in a formulation which is easy to take and appropriate to the child’s age.  

We also supply patients going home or coming to the clinics with their medication, so we are always working directly with families to ensure they know how to manage their medications and answer any questions they might have. 

We also run a service called ‘Pill School’. Liquid medicine may seem the obvious choice for children, but aren’t always most appropriate so we help them to learn to swallow pills! 

Our specialist pharmacists work with the individual specialist teams to support them with anything medicines related, such as guideline development, bringing new medications on our formulary or have questions about anything related to drugs. A lot of the pharmacists are also prescribers and some of them run their own clinics.  

The pharmacy team manages the South East London formulary, which has all the information about how we use drugs in paediatrics – indications, doses, administration and more. It is a lot of work especially as so many of the drugs we use are unlicensed. The information we collate is used across the UK and worldwide (!) due to its specialist nature. 

As Evelina London runs so many clinical trials, we have a dedicated clinical trials team and many of us are involved in research or are doing their own research.  

Working at a teaching hospital, we do a lot of education and training – within the hospital but also externally through courses we run or national organisations that we are involved with. Quite a few of us work with national organisations to improve medicines for children and occasionally we have colleagues from other countries visit us to see how we work. 

Behind the scenes, we do a lot of work around managing all the risks that come with using medications. Whether it be how we store, prepare, prescribe or administer medicines, we’re always looking at incidents we have with medication and always working to ensure our systems are as safe as possible.  

What do you find exciting about your work? 

Because of all the specialities we have here, we see lots of exciting new drug developments for children and a lot of my job is making sure these are made available to patients here.  

The future of medication for children is really exciting, not only are more specialist medications being developed with children in mind, but there is also an impressive pipeline of gene therapy drugs developing.  

A couple of years ago I was involved in the implementation of the first commissioned gene therapy for children at Evelina London. It was a steep learning curve, and it went really well due in great part to amazing teamwork across Evelina London. The outcome for the patient has been absolutely life changing. 

What is your proudest moment? 

Probably becoming a consultant pharmacist for paediatrics. It is quite a process to be accredited by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society as an expert in your field at that level and there are still only very view consultant pharmacists in paediatrics out there. Hopefully that will change in the years to come! 

Colourful question marks drawn by a child

Thank you to the children and young people who have so brilliantly illustrated our blog pages.