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How the coronavirus crisis has impacted on pharmacy students – part 4

In the latest instalment of our ‘coronavirus and its impact on pharmacy students’ series, we talk to Mona Badawy, who at the point of writing this article, was a final year MPharm student at Robert Gordon University. After being a PDA Student Rep for four years, Mona is now a PDA Pre-Reg Rep and shares her journey with us.

Wed 15th July 2020 The PDA

The coronavirus crisis has had quite an impact on our studies. I’m used to being at university every day and having face-to-face support but during the pandemic a lot of our lecturers have been busy. Through no fault of their own, they were not as accessible.

Having to adjust to a new way of studying was overwhelming at first; it was more the mental side of things that affected me. Our university closed a month and a half before our exams, which was very nerve-wracking. As I’m in fourth year, it felt like I was so close to my final step and the timing was a challenge.

I think I handled it quite well. My work has been a lot more self-directed and I’m relying more on my peers; we’re relying more on each other rather than our lecturers or course leaders, which has developed our teamwork skills. It felt good to handle things with other people at my level.

When we enter the workplace, we will have to work as a team, we won’t have lecturers. I’m going to have supervisors, but they won’t always have time for me, so this has helped me to prepare for that.

The university has handled digitising our learning well considering everything had to be done at such short notice. Everything we needed was made available, but I would say there were examples of communication issues or rather an excess of communication at times which led to misinterpretations. We had to read through a lot of documents and emails which was overwhelming at times. Things on Moodle were getting uploaded along with previous assessment details which confused people. It might have been useful to have one seminar which explained all of that, rather than ten emails but it was a learning process for everyone.

The university lecturers were reassuring and told us that we were doing fine and that we were handling things well. I didn’t feel on my own or that it was just my problem which really helped.

My training provider contacted me. We have a WhatsApp group which helped us to keep in touch. They didn’t just disappear. We still get contact from the person who is responsible for pre-reg inquiries at the university as well. Even though I’ve technically finished exams, they’re still getting in touch and telling us what we need to do which is helpful. We also have support from the PDA if we need it.

My journey with the PDA

I’ve been a PDA student rep for four years now. Since my first year of university I liked what the PDA stood for, it had a very specific aim which was to provide help for you as a pharmacy student and as a pharmacy professional. They help and support you throughout your academic and professional journey.

During your university induction you learn about the different pharmaceutical organisations – The BPSA, RPS and the PDA. The PDA gave an interesting talk and activity. At a PDA event, they brought real case studies that the PDA had been involved in, like fitness to practice cases. We were able to act out different roles. I got to know one of the PDA’s student reps and she was inspirational and very approachable, she handed the role to me in her fourth year.

“I’ve found it’s even more helpful when you really get involved with the PDA, as a student rep you learn skills that you may not think will help you, but they contribute to your personality and your skillset for your future career.”

The PDA student rep role has helped me develop confidence, communication, and creativity. I have delivered presentations for new first year students, speaking to an audience of 150 people and it sparked my creativity. I had to make sure the presentations were interesting and interactive; you must make students want to engage and learn more at the end.

Students should join the PDA because it’s free and you’re not going to lose anything. I’ve used the PDA helpline before, and I have friends who have had fitness to practice issues; it’s easier to get into issues like that than you think. You get told ‘don’t post this on social media, don’t say this, don’t say that’ but it’s so easy when you’re younger and you don’t have the experience. You might not know that something you’ve said might get you into trouble.

The PDA give you free advice – advice from people who know what they’re doing in the pharmacy sector. You feel supported. I value university advisers, but pharmacy is one of those healthcare courses which is sensitive, you have to watch how you portray yourself. You’re being treated as a professional from the first year so it’s good to have advice from people who understand professional practice and know the law.

By Mona Badawy


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