How the coronavirus crisis has impacted on pre-registration pharmacists – part 3

In the latest instalment of our ‘coronavirus and its impact on pre-registration pharmacists’ series, we talk to Noel Kizere, a PDA Rep who at the point of writing this article, was a pre-reg hospital pharmacist. Noel is now a provisionally registered pharmacist who will shortly begin working at Boots.

Wed 12th August 2020 The PDA

I guess you could say that I “fell” into pharmacy after being introduced to the profession by a close friend. I read up on the profession and was hugely intrigued. Pharmacy combines the fundamental elements of healthcare and has the benefit of being patient-focused and patient-centred.

We are embedded within the very communities that we serve; we are also very clinically astute. As an extrovert with a passion for science, clinical skills and caring for others; pharmacy won me over.

Securing a pre-reg placement wasn’t easy. I truly believe the Oriel system levelled the playing field for all applicants and definitely improved my chances of securing a hospital placement. Regardless, I put in a lot of effort preparing for the different stages of the application process. Perhaps the only thing that made the process easier was that we didn’t have to submit multiple applications for all the different placements.

“Being a pre-reg in a hospital pharmacy during the peak period of the pandemic was a very confusing and difficult time.”

Just like our community counterparts, we found ourselves on the front line. I was recruited to perform roles that wouldn’t normally be considered ‘pre-reg’ roles. Some experiences were enjoyable and provided perfect learning opportunities, others were very draining.

During a global pandemic, you take the good with the bad. We must all do our bit. COVID-19 was a huge disruption to normality. Shift patterns were affected, rotations were cancelled. Mentally it has been challenging, more so in the earlier days when we were left in the lurch with regards to the exam. On the subject of the exam, I was too tired to revise but too stressed to rest. It certainly hasn’t been an easy journey for us, the ‘COVID-cohort’.

Once we had clear direction and communication from the GPhC, I focused on completing my pre-reg year. This information also brought a sense of relief and allowed me to centre myself mentally in this ever-changing COVID-19 environment. The journey certainly wouldn’t have been easy without the support I received from my family and my mentor.

As a pre-reg, the PDA offered a sense of hope. Unlike our sister healthcare professions, in pharmacy, it can sometimes feel as though as a profession we have no true representation. The PDA first came to my attention after their ground-breaking consultation with Boots, but my personal relationship with the PDA began when I witnessed their relentless efforts to ensure a fair resolution on the issue of provisional registration and the GPhC’s plans for the ‘COVID-cohort’.

Perhaps most importantly, unlike some of the other ‘stakeholders’, the PDA saw the value and importance of hearing what we (as the group affected by this pandemic) had to say. They took their time to organise a virtual platform where we could raise our concerns. That won the PDA my respect.

Pharmacy as a profession can easily be compared to a swiss army knife; we are equipped with a wide variety of tools, yet often only one tool is in use at a time. What I mean by that is, we as a profession possess this wide array of skills that are often underutilised. Yet, we are so useful, we are often over-used and underappreciated.

Whilst I am not sure that the PDA can assist in ensuring that our skills are appropriately utilised, I am certain that they will continue to ensure that we are protected and treated fairly. That is why I want to be part of the change process.

“Everyone wants and needs to be heard. The worst thing any profession can do is muffle the voice of any, one group. The PDA is our voice in difficult times.”

An added benefit of the PDA network for pre-regs is that it gives confidence to its members (by knowing that we have a voice and want to be heard) and in doing so raises awareness of its own presence and shows that there is an organisation out there to support the profession and defend our reputation if necessary.

Not to mention, the PDA heavily invests in their pre-reg programme. With free membership and the highly recommended and very reasonably priced training events, membership is a no brainer.

Unfortunately, I get the sense that some established pharmacists may not recognise the PDA for the positive and necessary force that it is. In my opinion, this is perhaps due to the sense of security offered by being in a very good position which can often blind you to the fact that anything can happen to anyone. This is akin to the lack of attention we give to the brilliant charities that support us such as Pharmacist Support; until we need them. However, the consensus, I feel is that of sheer appreciation.

Anyone who wants a voice and the opportunity to be heard needs to join the PDA. There is more to the PDA than the ‘protection’ aspect. For pre-regs especially, the PDA goes above and beyond to offer help, support and training to help us become qualified pharmacists.

The truth is, aside from the PDA, I don’t think that us pharmacists are valued by anyone outside of our circle of impact. Let me elaborate; we are most certainly valued by the doctors and nurses that we work with on the wards. We are valued by the GPs we work with, but we are not truly valued or understood by some of the wider supporting staff. With regards to the public, we are valued but not recognised (there is a difference) and to go even further, we are recognised by the government, but we are not valued by them. Advancements have been made recently, but more can and needs to be done. Part of that responsibility falls on us as a profession.

Pharmacists have always had to fight for the basics. But I am certain we have the tools to do more and the ambition to be better recognised and valued.

“Being black in pharmacy often feels like you are an afterthought. Pharmacy is not designed with us in mind.”

That is the truth and change is coming, unlike the many attempts at change before, I hope this is change that not only heals the surface issues but curtails the regrowth of any other issues. A deep systemic overhaul is needed. Diversity is beautiful and if nature is anything to go by, diversity is the driving force behind survival and evolution. The same applies to pharmacy, but for anyone who finds themselves dismissing what I have said without digesting what it means, diversity doesn’t only benefit the BAME community. Its rewards are reaped by all.

The point regarding black people in pharmacy being an afterthought was highlighted by the COVID-19 situation where despite early signs that the disease was disproportionately affecting BAME staff, risk assessments and risk management strategies were only implemented after government advice. I suppose the question that needs investigation is “were BAME staff disproportionately affected because they were ‘biologically’ BAME or because of systemic failures which saw them at the frontline?” … Not a question I can answer but I’d be more inclined to suggest it is the latter.

I love education and training; in the future, I would love to get more involved in that. I also aspire to promote and bring about a more diverse pharmacy but further down the line, I wish to lead the profession to its rightful place. I wish to see the profession better recognised, better equipped, better utilised, and better appreciated.

Advice for future pre-reg pharmacists

A good friend once taught me that embedding yourself within your team is key and I agree with that. Embed yourself in every team you are part of and represent pharmacy wherever you are with confidence, respect, and a mutual understanding. We are all equal and regardless of banding, pay or title, respect is afforded by all and kindness is the cheapest present you can give.

 

By Noel Kizere

Get involved

Students and pre-regs can join the PDA for free here.

If you are a pre-reg and would like to get involved in a PDA focus group, please express your interest by emailing Jayne Love, PDA Union Organiser, at: Jayne.Love@pda-union.org.

Related links

 

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