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How the coronavirus crisis has impacted on pharmacy students – part 1

The lockdown measures announced on 23 March has had a serious impact on the way universities run, affecting pharmacy students nationwide.

Thu 18th June 2020 The PDA

In the first article in our ‘coronavirus and its impact on pharmacy students’ series, we talk to Hasan Gaffar-Karim, a MPharm student at Brighton University who works part-time at a hospital.

The coronavirus pandemic took us all by surprise. After the government guidelines came out, the universities emailed students to let us know that this would be our last day in the lab, so we needed to make sure we completed what we needed to.

We received further emails from the university regarding student support guidance. It was clear that they were trying to reassure us that they were still there for us but as I am a final year student, still completing my dissertation project, I was a bit panicked at this stage as I was worried about completing my project.

It has been difficult for everyone, but I feel the university could have been more demonstrative of their support with more personal contact.

We have had a few online lectures. I thought they were good and better than I expected. Lectures online happened every Friday, so we had less content and input but I appreciate the lecturers were stressed themselves so they couldn’t put in as much as they would have done; everything was new for us all.

I work part-time at a hospital so that was another shock; I was being called into work to do more shifts as I have been needed more than usual due to the pandemic.

“I feel my mental health was affected during the early weeks.”

There were PPE shortages, the outpatient pharmacy didn’t have regulations in place, this was just the beginning of the crisis and everyone was working together to get an action plan sorted. By the end of March, I was feeling very stressed.

I feel my mental health was affected during the early weeks; it was completely draining trying to stay on top of my university work while doing extra shifts at the hospital.

By mid-April, I began to feel more comfortable. PPE was provided, the hours at the pharmacy were more manageable for everyone, and we had systems in place for patient and staff safety such as a one in one out policy. We also had a security guard on the door.

It became a more controlled atmosphere and place to work, and therefore more manageable for both patients and staff. I didn’t feel overwhelmed like I did when lockdown was first introduced.

The place that I am going to carry out my pre-reg placement year is very good at communication with me. They have been updating me on what’s going to happen, they have provided a start date and have reassured me that everything is still going ahead as planned.

I feel much more relaxed about my pre-reg year because I’ve had good communication and it is clear what I can expect and what support is in place, even during this uncertain time.

“Being a PDA Student Rep has allowed me to gain new skills.”

My involvement with the PDA began when I met one of the PDA regional officials at the hospital while he was working as a locum last summer. I asked if he could set me up with a one-day placement because I thought it would be good to experience what goes on behind the scenes at the PDA. I ended up with the day placement and really gained an interest in what the PDA do, how they impact the lives of pharmacists and especially the law side of it all.

The role of a student rep was suggested, so I applied, and attended the two-day training at the PDA offices. While there, I met other student reps. I really enjoyed it, and I learnt a lot on the day. People were enthusiastic and creative. We explored issues and worked in teams to prepare presentations with some great ideas being shared. We also learnt more about the PDA Student Rep role.

Being a PDA Student Rep has allowed me to gain new skills in communication, organisation, and presentations. The law side of it is interesting. Until I brought the PDA up to peers, they hadn’t really heard of them. When I first became a rep, I talked on our group chat about who the PDA are and what they do, how membership is free, and it benefits you as a pharmacy student.

I had a lot of messages and general questions from students about joining the PDA. There were also people interested in finding out more about the law side of pharmacy and possible career options.

You need someone representing you; teachers and other professions have their unions, and the PDA is the one that will support pharmacists. With pharmacy, there is more and more to it, like fitness to practice, which can affect the career of a pharmacist. I think having someone there to represent you gives you reassurance and peace of mind.

In the current crisis, there’s new ground, like the pre-reg provisional registration, it has never been done before. If the public question provisional registration because pre-regs have not done the exam, the PDA is there to offer help and support during this difficult time. This support is crucial whether you are new to the profession or you are an experienced pharmacist.


By Hasan Gaffar-Karim


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