Becoming a provisionally registered pharmacist – my journey so far

In our latest member voice article, Jonny Blatchford, a provisionally registered pharmacist, gives an insight into his pharmacy journey so far; discussing what led him to study pharmacy and his hopes for the future. Find out how he found his pre-reg year and what advice he has for future cohorts.

Thu 12th November 2020 The PDA

Like many people, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished my A levels. I spent some time working in retail and travelling before deciding on a career path. I searched for science-based courses and liked the idea of helping people with their medication, so I applied and got accepted to study pharmacy at Kingston University in South London. Fortunately, I absolutely loved it, I fell in love with pharmacy and have no regrets. The lecturers were incredible and really make the course what it is. There were so many opportunities available for us that the limit to our potential was determined only by our motivation and work ethic.

I chose to complete my pre-registration year at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. It was a great experience and prepared me well for life as a pharmacist. I chose to work in a hospital pharmacy as I had worked part-time in the community sector for 3 years and hoped a combination of both would better prepare me for practice.

I have been very lucky, working as a provisional pharmacist in a busy London trust has meant I had a comprehensive induction. It has been great so far and I have a lovely and supportive team. They have not hesitated to throw me in the deep end which has been scary at times but great for my development.

As a prov-reg during the COVID-19 pandemic, I think that many organisations have empathised with us and have done amazing work to support us. However, I do feel that many of the current cohort do not have the same opportunities as previous years. I recently saw a social media poll in which a third of participants, many of whom were resitters, indicated that they have gone onto universal credit.

On the GPhC decision to postpone the assessment

The GPhC made an incredibly difficult decision to ensure the safety of pre-regs and the public during an unprecedented time. I don’t envy the GPhC for the tough decisions they have had to make but I think whilst they made the right decision, they could have communicated better and reorganised the exam faster. It felt like education and training took a back seat as the country adjusted to COVID-19. Universities have re-organised exams, had a summer break, and started a new term. Other professions have clarified the issue of trainees months ago. Even the regulatory body for pharmacy in Canada, who are in exactly the same situation as us, have already re-organised and registered their trainees.

“As well as the usual difficulties during the pandemic, I think the uncertainty made the cohort very anxious as we had little information for months and were worried about our future. This made this whole process a lot more difficult than it needed to be.”

I think feeling valued by the profession varies dramatically from person to person and depends largely on if you get employed and where you work. Whilst I am working for the NHS and helping my patients, I feel like I am making a difference and I am valued by the team. However, I could imagine those who are not employed, or are not having the impact they want could easily feel disenfranchised by the profession.

Advice for future pre-regs

If I had to give advice to the next pre-reg cohort, I think it would be to be wary of burnout. It can be very stressful working for the NHS during a pandemic whilst continuing to study. Take some time away from pharmacy to relax and re-energise. When you can, try and do a little bit of studying every day to stay on top of everything. Little and often is better than cramming!

Being able to utilise the knowledge and skills I have gained over the last 5 years is very rewarding and energises me to continue doing my best. Each week brings new learning opportunities and with it, a greater level of confidence.

Planning for the future

In the future, once I have had a greater breadth of experience, I would love to go into teaching. At university, I was a Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) academic mentor where I would teach lower years with other mentors. I really enjoyed finding creative ways to share my knowledge and encourage students’ understanding.

In terms of pharmacy as a whole, I think that many of my aspirations are already coming true. We are seeing pharmacists becoming independent prescribers within clinics, being recognised as valued members of multidisciplinary teams and integrated into GP surgeries. I would love to see pharmacists more involved in mental health as this is a growing issue in our society. As pharmacists, we are the most accessible healthcare professionals and I believe we could have a massive impact.

On joining the PDA

“The PDA do so much more than I could have imagined as a student! It’s so much better to have support and advice when you need it. Also, it’s free for students and pre-regs so you really have nothing to lose.”

The PDA have done great work supporting provisional pharmacists. They have brought in a weekly education programme with a combination of advice and a range of questions. The PDA have given us the confidence to speak up and raised our concerns with the GPhC without hesitation.

By Jonny Blatchford, prov-reg pharmacist

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