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The perfect pre-reg pharmacist year!

Aamer Safdar
Aamer Safdar


IMAGINE the scenario…

It is your first day in your pre-reg year and you have slept badly because you are full of nerves and some trepidation about your first day. You have woken up early to make sure you get to work early to give a good impression. You have picked your best suit, or dress, and spruced yourself up as best you can. You get to the pharmacy and everyone is expecting you and your pharmacist is so pleasant to you, that you have this nice feeling inside your tummy; you know the feeling when you think life couldn’t be any better… and then the alarm clock goes off and you realise that this was a dream.

Your first day didn’t quite go to plan. While the pharmacy staff were expecting you, they didn’t quite know what to do with you as they needed someone to manage the counter. Your pharmacist is not your tutor and is a locum because it is summer time and your tutor is on holiday. You are a bag of nerves because although you worked in community pharmacy while at university, you haven’t worked in this pharmacy before. You manage to get through the day unscathed and are wondering if this is the right place for you and what the rest of the year will be like.

Preparing for the pre-reg year is not just the responsibility of your tutor. Too many trainees turn up to their training year without having done any preparation themselves; this is not university and no-one will be spoonfeeding you, let’s get this clear from the outset. You should, at the very least, have read through the GPhC pre-reg manual before your training year starts. Even my own trainees come into their training year without having done this! Reading the GPhC manual will give you a heads up of what the year involves and what you can do yourself to make your year a successful one.

There is nothing wrong with guiding your tutor and taking some responsibility for your own training. Some tutors would be grateful that you have done this, while others may not like you telling them what to do, so don’t go in all guns blazing. Instead, take your time to see what your tutor is like and how they are planning to support you. I always ask my trainees how they would like me to support them, so that there is no misunderstanding.

All trainees are different and, as I always have more than one trainee, I work differently with each one depending on what they want or need. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) have a pre-reg tutor guide and it is worth informing your tutor about this, because it has only recently been launched and your tutor may be unaware of this. In fact, you should consider joining the RPS yourself to take advantage of the support material that membership provides.

One of the first things you need to do is to go through and understand your training plan so that you know what the rest of the year will bring. Identify your training needs and discuss these with your tutor, because the training plan would have been written before you arrived and would not have been individualised to you. Some corporate companies have set training plans, but there is always some flexibility depending on what you need.

Remember it is in everyone’s best interests if you are up to speed with the basics of your job as quickly as possible. You will need to start by building your own foundations of skills and knowledge; get the basics right first and then go from there. In other words, learn to walk before you can run. It is all about becoming consciously incompetent; if you don’t know what this is that, then you haven’t read the GPhC manual!

One of the most important aspects of your year is writing records of evidence. There is no right way to do these and it is important you discuss this with your tutor as s/he will be signing you off. Some tutors like a lot of detail in the records, while others are happy with less detail and will talk the records through with you. Make sure that you have written enough in your records so that you remember things months afterwards, in case you need them for later progress reviews. If your tutor doesn’t want you to write any records because they see you in practice every day write them for yourself anyway.

The exam
Lastly, far too many trainees start worrying about the pre-reg exam, the official title is the registration assessment, and think that the training year is all geared up to passing the exam. In my personal opinion this is complete rubbish. If you practice well during the year, think about the patients and the prescriptions you have been dealing with all year and keep up to date yourself with your clinical knowledge and problem solving skills you are continuously preparing for the exam. You might need to brush up on your calculations though and keep practising these.

So may trainees start thinking about the exam six months before the exam and starting to panic. When in your life have you started exam revision so early? Did you do this for your GCSEs, A levels, or university exams? I don’t think so. There is nothing wrong with starting early but build yourself up and don’t panic or get overly concerned. Don’t listen to your mates as they can sometimes make you nervous for no reason.

Most trainees have a tough and challenging year and learn a lot from it. There are always some who find that their experience is very bad and that they are being used as employees and not as trainees. In these instances don’t keep things to yourself and speak to someone. While it might feel as though you are on your own, there is a range of things you can do which includes speaking to your university lecturers, speaking to the GPhC (although this can be scary) and speaking to Pharmacist Support. It is important to share your experiences and not keep them bottled up.

The transition from student to pre-reg trainee and then to registered pharmacist is a big one and most trainees are able to do this if they are prepared, resilient and focussed on the outcome.

I hope that this blog has been of use and all the best for a successful training year!

Aamer Safdar is the principal pharmacist lead for education and development at Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust. He lectures at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at Kings College London and University College London School of Pharmacy and is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board. 

Follow Aamer @asafdar1

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