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How the coronavirus crisis has impacted on pharmacy students – part 2

In the second instalment of our ‘coronavirus and its impact on pharmacy students’ series, we talk to Osariemen Egharevba-Buckman, a second-year MPharm student at Medway School of Pharmacy.

Tue 30th June 2020 The PDA

Here Osariemen shares how the lockdown impacted on her studies and discusses the importance of being a member of the PDA for ongoing support throughout your career.

Our university was prepared for the academic side of the changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic; it was the practical aspects of the course that were more difficult as they were cancelled. I appreciate how difficult it has been for universities, but I also feel that some practical sessions could have been adapted, such as OSCE’s being delivered via a zoom video call.

No organisation could really have been fully prepared for the pandemic. I feel some students have struggled with not having the same levels of interactions. I definitely have.

Some students have certainly struggled with exams as they were going through stressful experiences, learning at home with younger children in the family or living in a big household. University and libraries were closed. Some people have had family members impacted by the COVID-19 virus; it has been hard to focus on study and revision when there is so much going on in your life and this made the exams even more stressful. It would have been more helpful to be assessed in a different way.

The examinations were different this year; we had to do them even though we are not final year students – after already having some exams in January. Having exams during a pandemic appears to have impacted on the results for some students; where they may have expected a 1:1 they could have got a 2:2 because of the circumstances and stress related to COVID-19. Pharmacy is a competitive degree and the pandemic has created additional pressures.

At the beginning of our second year, our lecturer showed us the grades we would need in first, second and third year to average out so that we receive a first-class honours degree. A lot of us remember that, and it has been on our minds; we are already calculating how much more we’ll need to do in third year if we don’t receive the expected grades this year due to the pandemic. This can be discouraging.

We want to be able to achieve the grades that reflect our knowledge and capabilities, not what we were able to achieve while under extreme stress. Students need transparency in the marking process and some recognition that we have taken examinations at this difficult time, with no detriment for those who have really struggled in challenging circumstances during the pandemic.

There have been times where you come in and you don’t feel motivated or as ecstatic to be at work that day, but you have to be your own motivator. It’s given us time to sit down and think- why am I doing this course? … because I want to help people. Pharmacists are often independent and responsible for patient care, so we are learning some important skills that will help us further in our career. My hope is that our experiences will make us stronger and better pharmacists in the future.

“It is so encouraging to know you would never be left on your own and that you can get support from the PDA.”

The flipside of this whole COVID-19 pandemic is we have been able to see where we may be struggling with topics and this has given us an opportunity to take control of our learning. Having time has meant we can consolidate our knowledge and learn how independent and resilient we can be. We have a new independence, and this is the first step into a level of real-world responsibility. We also must motivate ourselves. A lot has been put on students to continuously learn and complete the work that’s been assigned.

Within the healthcare sector, pharmacy can sometimes be perceived as having less value than other professions; public perception can be that pharmacists just dispense their medication, and nothing could be further from the truth. Pharmacists work in many areas of the health profession from hospitals, to community pharmacies, GP surgeries and industry to name just a few.

Joining the PDA

The first thing that made me want to join the PDA was in first year when we were told about fitness to practice. It seemed like such a scary thing that could impact your future career. It’s something that could happen to anyone, so the fact that there is an organisation like the PDA there to help us and defend us seemed amazing. Pharmacy students understand what the PDA is about at my university. We have law modules, and we still talk about what would happen if something went wrong on placement. The role of the PDA would be to support the pharmacy student. It is so encouraging to know you would never be left on your own and that you can get support from the PDA.

It’s good to know that there is an organisation that works for the benefit of the whole pharmacy sector and puts pharmacy at the heart of the healthcare sector; that is encouraging. The PDA’s policy on ‘Wider than Medicines’ is an example of promoting the value of pharmacists and pharmacy within the wider healthcare system. Pharmacists have such an important role to play in patient healthcare and medicines. This is one of the things that made me join the PDA.

“I think the two things I’ve learnt from being a PDA Student Rep is responsibility and leadership.”

I haven’t had a chance to attend a PDA event yet because sadly the PDA annual national conference was cancelled due to COVID-19 this year. I’m looking forward to more opportunities to network and get involved in the future.

I joined the women’s network of the PDA, NAWP, which opens up new opportunities to attend events and network with other pharmacist members. Being around other pharmacy professionals means we can get a real insight into the pharmacy world. Students don’t get too many opportunities to spend time with other pharmacists so we value being involved.

The PDA also gives students the chance to learn. There is so much going on in the pharmacy sector and if you don’t expose yourself to it, you just won’t know about. The PDA is a welcoming avenue to find out more about the world of pharmacy which can really help in the future.

I think the two things I’ve learnt from being a PDA Student Rep is responsibility and leadership. The whole point of my role is to make students aware of the PDA’s work and get them more involved. It’s important to stand up for ourselves and to learn and develop through being more active in the PDA.

During this pandemic, we have really seen a change in how we are learning; remote working is strictly online and is very different from the usual environment of lectures, lab sessions and classes. It has improved our independence as pharmacy students but neglected the interaction we would normally experience. Pharmacy is much more than a solitary role as you are regularly interacting with both the patients and people you work with.


By Osariemen Egharevba-Buckman


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