My journey to become a qualified pharmacist

In our latest member voice article, newly qualified pharmacist and PDA Rep, Navinder Singh shares his experience of working in community pharmacy as a pre-reg (trainee pharmacist) during the pandemic. Navinder also gives advice to MPharm students and trainee pharmacists and shares his plans for the future.

Wed 6th October 2021 The PDA

My result in the GPhC registration assessment taken in March 2021 gave me a feeling of success and fulfilment as I had finally completed my 5-year goal of becoming a pharmacist in the UK! I was very excited to transition from a provisionally registered pharmacist to a fully qualified pharmacist.

Pre-registration training during the pandemic

Most of my voluntary work, pre-registration training, provisional and full registration work has been completed in the community pharmacy sector. During this time, my development journey has not been without its challenges, especially those presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it has been rewarding and I continue to feel honoured to be able to serve in our amazing health service.

My pre-reg training was completed in an independent community pharmacy located within Huddersfield; I believe that my work at this site greatly influenced my appreciation of the vital role which pharmacies play within local communities. Alongside this, the pre-reg training year was the first, real-life opportunity in which I was able to apply my university learning to assist in providing the best care to patients in a continuous manner – a service that was appreciated by patients.

The pandemic has changed community pharmacy

In my opinion, the pandemic had drastically changed the community pharmacy workplace and the services we provide for patients. It created the need for proactive ways in which we were able to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading between patients and staff members while minimising the negative impact upon the pharmacy services we provide.

We adopted social distancing, protective screens, and personal protective equipment into our pharmacy quite early to ensure that we were able to continue to provide vital pharmaceutical care to our local community.

The workload at my pre-reg site had significantly increased during both the first and second lockdown of the pandemic and this contributed to my decision to prioritise my practical training experience over my independent study. Despite my understanding that this decision had negatively impacted my intended progression in my revision plan, I still stand by my choice as this additional work provided me the opportunity to learn and implement skills in delegation and prioritisation; both of which I still use largely today as a fully registered pharmacist.

Revising for the assessment examination

The revision plan that I had developed to guide my learning had been scheduled to cover all the required material months before the assessment, thus providing sufficient time for me to identify and address learning gaps within my competence through a cyclic assessment process.

With this and the support from my pre-reg training provider, I felt positive about the upcoming registration assessment as I knew that I had tried my best despite the many challenges presented to me.

I was also thankful to enhance my learning with PDA Education which is free to PDA members. The Education Hub revision programmes and mock exams were delivered through the online platform and available via an app, so it made my learning more accessible being able to log in at different locations. It also included up-to-date resources and helpful tips.

Advice to MPharm students and trainees

I strongly recommend that all student and trainee pharmacists take advantage of free PDA membership today! During my training year, the PDA worked tirelessly to support our cohort with a number of free education training programmes. They also represented the pharmacy profession with the wider challenges that were being presented by the pandemic, including with the GPhC. In addition, they can give invaluable advice and guidance to help you on your journey to become a newly qualified pharmacist.

My advice for current MPharm students (besides joining the PDA for free) is that it is normal to feel apprehensive when trying new things, but try not to let that deter you completely. It is an exciting time for the profession and there are lots of new roles and opportunities opening for pharmacists. Always attempt different things and placements during your MPharm degree, the experiences will help you to understand what you enjoy and will inform your decisions of what to do next in your career.

Benefits of becoming a PDA Rep

I have thoroughly enjoyed my work as a PDA Rep and it has given me the opportunity to meet and work with lots of very talented individuals and help represent my cohort for wider issues that have been affecting the profession.

For this reason, I would recommend all students who are interested in becoming more involved with the issues affecting pharmacy, whilst working with a supportive network of professionals to assist with making positive changes to the profession, consider becoming a PDA Rep.

After working in the community pharmacy sector for more than 4 years, I am now looking to transition into a PCN pharmacist role and undertake the associated CPPE education pathway.

In addition to this, I hope to continue my efforts in becoming more involved with pharmacy organisations in helping to improve the education and development for pharmacy professionals, as well as the inclusiveness of the profession

By Navinder Singh, Community Pharmacist and PDA rep

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