LET’S be realistic, the pre-registration year can be daunting especially with all the new changes in place for the June 2016 examination. Many questions will be raised:
What is required of one during the pre-registration year?
How will I pass the exam?
Where do I start?
To begin with, the pre-registration year is a learning experience; it is your year and it is all about what you do with it. No one will hold your hand, but there is plenty of guidance and resources to support you throughout the year.
A year on and as a locum pharmacist within the community sector I have decided to give my perspective of the pre-registration year after being surrounded by pre-registration pharmacists that have passed this year’s exam.
Here are some of my top ten thoughts and opinions on how to achieve a successful pre- registration year:
1. Begin with buying a hard copy of the BNF, treat it as your bible and carry it with you every day to work. Aim to write down things that you have learned on the day, anything that is new to you that you can go home and research later in your own time.
Tip – Write down at least two new drugs a day you come across that you are not familiar with. Check their clinical usage by referring to the BNF. This will not only improve your clinical knowledge, but will also improve your speed at fidnign information.
2. Social Media – join the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and sign up to the pre-registration alerts by registering your e-mail address. With all the new changes, this will allow you to keep up to date with what is going on.
Tip – Every few days, navigate through the website and see what is going on. Are there any new events targeted towards pre-registration pharmacists? Try and attend these.
3. The pre-registration year – YES, it can be overwhelming and stressful. You will use a lot of resources and access a lot of material. Questions will be raised: what shall I use? How will I get through it all? You need to make the ultimate decision, but remember it will be impossible to get through everything.
Tip – Remember to use the most up-to-date resources, and do not forget the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) sample papers.
4. Study alone? Or with a study partner? Or with a group of friends? The truth is, go with whatever you feel most comfortable with. I had a study partner and in fact it really helped, especially at times when I was unsure of something and I needed clarification.
Tip – Set up a WhatsApp group amongst a bunch of friends. Best way to share material, test each other and alert each other on anything that is new and will help towards the exam.
5. The key to success is to ensure to cover the Framework 100 per cent – At this stage into the pre- registration year, you all should have had a look at the new 2016 framework replacing the old syllabus and have read through it.
Tip – Highlight areas or topics that you are unaware of or where you need further clarification. Research around the topic. Another suggestion would be to ask friends if they have a better understanding, or your tutor or ex lecturers at your universities.
6. The daunting nightmare of calculations – the 2016 exam will contain calculations that are more realistic, with real numbers and clinical aspects reflecting everyday practice. You all must have heard of the phrase: ‘practice makes perfect’. Remember this phrase throughout the year. Start calculations early on into the year, don’t delay practicing till a month before the exam as this will just add to the pressure. Try and practice all types of calculations, regardless of the difficulty level. It is really important not to just jump into calculations; understanding the basics is essential. To succeed in calculations, speed is an essential factor, time yourself whenever possible.
Tip – Start with five calculations a day and slowly increase the amount once you feel more comfortable with the volume. As I mentioned earlier practice all types of calculations. One of the best ways will be to share training material from different organisations amongst friends and do not forget General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) sample papers, the best reflection of what to except from the examination.
7. Become an all-rounder pharmacist- You’re all probably sitting and thinking ‘what is she on about?’ Let me explain, during the pre-registration year we all focus on the dreaded exam that lies ahead and forget that being a pharmacist also involves us understanding the practical aspects of pharmacy. YES I am to blame for this as well, during my pre-registration year my work colleagues kept on telling me how essential it is to be an all-rounder pharmacist. Now looking back I truly understand what they all meant by this. To be a successful future pharmacist, don’t hide away in the dispensary! Get yourself involved and show your enthusiasm to learn and build a relationship with your patients.
Tip – Watch out for events in your local area that will aid your learning and help you gain a better understanding. Something to keep in mind is that these events can also contribute to your continuing professional development (CPD) and can increase your network portfolio.
8. New Changes, New Format the Pre-registration Exam 2016 – This will be patient focussed, will involve application of knowledge AND will reflect everyday practice and will focus less on factual recall. How can one prepare for the exam? Pre-registration pharmacists should take every opportunity throughout training to reflect upon scenarios and ask themselves questions: how would I deal with that situation? What is the best approach to that situation? And what is the best outcome for the patient? By now you all should be aware that core references like the BNF and BNFc are not allowed to be taken into the exam. However, this does not mean that they should not be used at every opportunity to aid learning throughout the training year. Also with the addition of the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPCs) to the examination, one should take the opportunity to familiarise themselves with SPCs and try understand their necessity and what type of information needs to be included within them.
Tip – With the Pre-registration examination becoming more clinical, do not forget the clinical aspects that were taught at your university, take every opportunity to reflect and re-familiarise yourself with them once again. Also take the any opportunity (if available) to familiarise yourself with a clinical setting. Try and understand the diversity between a clinical and community setting and how they both work together to improve patient care.
9. The Learning Points – During the training year a lot of pre-registration pharmacists try and wonder what came up in the exam the year before or how can they make sure they perform to their best ability. The answer to this is not to forget to reflect upon the learning points that are produced by the GPhC every year after each sitting of the registration assessment. The learning points are a true reflection of where pre-registration pharmacists have failed to demonstrate a clear knowledge and an understanding of areas of topics throughout practice.
Tip – Pre-registration pharmacists should take the opportunity to reflect upon the learning points not just from the year before, but also from previous years. From this a list of topics should be compiled to help aid revision further, you never know the GPhC may just decide to re visit the topic again in the next examination!
10. To summarise
- Do not forget to stay in touch and follow the GPhC on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates in the lead up to the June 2016 examination.
- Ensure you take some time out and have a look at the new registration assessment framework replacing the old syllabus.
- Do not forget to have a thorough read through the guide to the registration assessment 2016.
- Do not let contributing factors like speed have an impact on your performance within the examination –I cannot stress this enough.
- Plan ahead and time yourself at every opportunity. Maybe give yourself less time on calculations than what will be allowed in the exam. The remaining time could be used to go through and check that your answers are correct.
- Watch out for events carried out by the GPhC and the RPS targeted towards the examination.
- Lastly never believe you are alone through your Pre-registration journey: there is always support available. Use it.
Roshani Patel is a locum community pharmacist
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