A pharmacy journey on hold: A member’s thoughts on being ineligible for provisional registration

In our latest member voice article, a PDA member who has chosen to remain anonymous, shares their experience of being in the cohort of pre-regs ineligible to become prov-regs. Here, they discuss their disappointment at the GPhC announcement, what it has been like balancing work with exam revision and why they became a PDA Rep to give the ‘forgotten cohort’ a voice.

Thu 11th February 2021 The PDA

MY INTRODUCTION TO PHARMACY

During my secondary school years, seeing my Mum studying Biomedical Sciences and graduating with a master’s degree helped to pique my interest in clinical sciences. It was so fascinating listening to her talk about how various medicines affected the body, and their overall mechanisms.

This inspired me to go on to study my MPharm course at Kingston University. Apart from being a little bit chemistry-heavy in the first three years and being very content-heavy in the third year, it was an exhilarating and rewarding experience. I was lucky to have some really supportive lecturers and the clinical modules provided us with an in-depth knowledge.

SECURING A PRE-REG PLACEMENT

In terms of securing a pre-reg placement, I first applied to a large multiple, and after a series of OSCE’s and an interview, I secured a place that was close to where I lived. However, due to the poor training conditions of that particular workplace (I was being denied study time, and workplace bullying became an issue), I had to find training elsewhere. After a series of futile phone calls, I managed to secure a place at an independent pharmacy, where I was subsequently signed off as competent after banking the maximum of 26 weeks at my previous workplace.
Although I have been aware of the PDA Union since my first pre-reg year (2017-18), I didn’t contact them with regards to the problems I had experienced at my first placement. I think this is because I had the misconception that my problems weren’t ‘big enough’ and the bullying was often downplayed by the management at the time. I also hoped that through my own hard work, things would get better and I could be signed off and move on with exam revision.

As an MPharm graduate, I expected these professionals to train me, however, they treated me as a dispenser or shop floor assistant. I’ve unfortunately seen this complaint echoed by other pre-regs when describing their experience of poor training sites. In my case, I felt as though the commercial aspects of the business were put before my training.

“In hindsight, I should have contacted the PDA at a much earlier point, before the bullying got worse, as I recently heard of another pre-reg in a similar situation who had contacted the PDA at an earlier stage and was pleased with the assistance that he received.”

I did receive some help through Pharmacist Support who assigned me a Listening Friend, which made me feel less alone and highlighted that I was a trainee and should not have been expected to go at the same speed as an experienced pharmacist.

BEING INELIGIBLE FOR PROVISIONAL REGISTRATION

Before the GPhC had released the eligibility criteria for qualifying as a provisionally registered pharmacist, I and other pre-regs were looking forward to practising as prov-regs. It felt as though we were all in the same boat; all being signed off as competent after 52 weeks of training, and all yet to take and pass the registration exam.

“When the time came for the official announcement in May, the disappointment was immeasurable.”

The announcement presented those who were ineligible for provisional registration with a myriad of problems, such as how they’d be able to support themselves financially, not knowing how long they would have to wait to sit the exam and having to search for odd jobs to keep themselves afloat during a global pandemic. Being excluded while another cohort can practice before having sat the exam has led to feelings of alienation and a blow to our confidence as a cohort.

I believed there needed to be more clarity from the GPhC as to why pre-registration students who fit the following two categories were not eligible to be on the provisional register:

  • Those who had been signed off as competent; but have had a previous exam attempt
  • Those who had been signed off as competent; with no previous exam attempts, but had been signed off in 2019
    Both of the above categories, however, have something in common with current practising prov-reg pharmacists: they are all yet to sit and pass the exam.

“During this time, I have had the opportunity to connect with both pre-reg and prov-reg cohorts and the general consensus from these groups has been that, from a fairness standpoint, the GPhC could have given all pre-registration students an equal opportunity.”

At this current point in time, it is exceedingly disheartening to be working as a dispenser with the knowledge that a select cohort with the same degree and position as me, are able to work as prov-regs. Nevertheless, I chose to work in a place where I could remain in a pharmacy environment, as I persist with revision and practice exam style questions on a daily basis.

BECOMING A PDA REP

The GPhC outcome has left me with a lingering feeling of isolation, which is one of the reasons I decided to become a PDA pre-reg representative.

“I wanted a voice, and I wanted to give the so-called ‘forgotten cohort’ a voice during such a crucial time, where change is urgently needed.”

I’ve been heavily involved with social media relating to pharmacy. I share revision tips when I can with the cohort and have been observing the responses of various key organisations in response to the prov-reg/exam delay fallout. Out of all of them, the PDA has demonstrated the most proactive and vocal support for all cohorts and are always relaying our queries and concerns to the GPhC.

Shortly after the prov-reg criteria was first posted, the PDA got in touch with people in my position to invite us to join a live webinar to support pre-regs. During this webinar, I was able to highlight my feelings towards the decision and as a PDA member was also offered to join a PDA network and given a free programme of support through the PDA’s new Education Hub.

“It has shown that for any problems one may be facing in pharmacy right now, they’ll never need to face it alone, which is why I highly recommend that every pharmacy professional who hasn’t already, join the PDA.”

ASPIRATIONS FOR THE FUTURE

For many years now, my dream and my aim has been to become a qualified pharmacist, helping and educating the public, to improve their quality of life and to make things easier for them in the long run. In turn, this qualification would also open many doors for me. I plan to go on to work part-time as a pharmacist while doing my PhD to become a pharmacy university lecturer. I hope to educate and advise future generations on how to make the most of their undergraduate and pre-registration (or possibly foundation) year to practise safely and effectively as a fully qualified pharmacist.

ADVICE FOR PRE-REG PHARMACISTS

For all pre-regs and prov-regs, here’s some advice from someone who’s been through the exam already, and has learned some key tips for studying effectively for this exam in particular:

  • Join the PDA and join in their revision programme on The PDA Education Hub.
  • Do 10 calculation and clinical exam questions daily.
  • Get familiar with the 12 different types of calculation questions (Doses and Dosing Regimens; Dose and unit conversions; Displacement values and volumes; Dilutions; Molarity; Utilising Formulae; Infusion Rates; Pharmacokinetics; Pharmacoeconomics; Quantities to supply, etc.)
  • You see a table in the BNF? Make your own version for a handy revision reference (with exceptions like the Morphine table).
  • Pay extra attention to the beginning of the BNF’s ‘Appendix 1 – Interactions’ which has a tabled list of drugs that cause certain side effects, as well as the preliminary chapters.
  • Subscribe to the CPPE for virtual lectures, going through the BNF monographs as you do so
    Make flowcharts and mind maps (especially taking the time to make separate mind maps for each of the high-risk drugs).
  • Go through pre-registration revision books.

With the recent announcement by the GPhC, there is still time to smash the exam, as long as you’re consistent. We’ve all made it this far, just one final hurdle to go!

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