Alan Turing, a pioneer in science, was recently crowned the greatest person of the 20th century by the BBC. He once said: “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”
In terms of the preregistration year, truer words have never been spoken. In the space of 52 weeks, there is plenty to be done. You are expected to adjust into a new work environment, work full-time, attend weekend courses and of course study for the ultimate exam, not to mention juggle the other necessities of daily life. It is undoubtedly a stressful year so here are three pieces of advice for anyone who is feeling the heat.
It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it
During my training, I was working 9am–7pm at an incredibly busy pharmacy and got home after 8pm every day. After showering and having dinner, this left little time and mental capacity for any productive revision, so knowing what’s important is key.
Rather than write pages and pages of notes aimlessly, use the GPhC indicative assessment topics as a guideline and take it a BNF section at a time — for example the cardiovascular system. Then divide the chapter into further topics for example, hypertension and arrhythmias, and for each of those, a section on causes, risk factors, symptoms, treatment and main drug interactions.
Revise with your group of friends and learn from each other. It may feel as if your preregistration tutor is placing a lot of pressure on you at times, but they have been through this, so try and learn as much as you can from them.
Think like an examiner and a pharmacist. Would it be more important for you to know the exact anatomy of the liver or the key signs of liver disease? For me, going over questions from past papers, websites or from my tutor was the best approach. It’s been proven that you remember things best when you get them wrong. And it’s better to get it wrong before your exam rather than in it.
Just keep moving forward, one day at a time
The work week is a long one. The key to getting through it without affecting your mental wellbeing is to look forward to something every day — whether it’s curling up with a nice cup of tea in the evening, a new episode of your favourite show or meeting up with a friend. We had pizza Fridays in the pharmacy I worked in and so I started the year with 52 pizzas to get through, which was a much more digestible prospect than 52 weeks of work.
If I am honest, despite all these tactics, some days (maybe most days) you may still feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to get done and feel that things will not pull together in a neat bow. To anyone who feels this way, you are not alone and you are doing better than you think. Think of the year as a challenge and face it head on. Take each hurdle as it comes and prove to yourself that you can do it.
Life is too important to be taken seriously
I honestly believe this is the most important advice anyone can give you. Don’t be so stressed out with revision and responsibilities of work that you send yourself spiralling into an endless vortex of panic. You are not a stranger to exams – you’ve been doing them for most of your life so it essentially makes you an expert. Find something to laugh at every day and try to see the funny side of any situation.
I once did work experience with a pharmacist who worked ten hours a day, six days a week and ran a very busy and yet short-staffed pharmacy. As if this wasn’t stressful enough, he was diagnosed with a serious genetic, connective tissue disorder about 15 years ago. This means he was in constant pain all day but somehow still found the energy to make terrible jokes and keep laughing.
Finally, you get bad days and you get good days. There are days where you will wake up and it will take the strength of Samson to heave yourself out of bed, days when you make a mistake at work and feel awful and days where you feel that this isn’t worth it and you would rather move to Tuscany and spend your life serving wine for the locals. But, there will also be days when you laugh your head off, days where you have the confidence to do something you would never have done a few months ago and, if all goes according to plan, a day when you open that letter from the GPhC and wonder why you ever doubted yourself.
Box: Where to go for help and support
If you, or someone you know, is in need of advice or support please visit www.pharmacistsupport.org or contact 0808 168 2233; firstname.lastname@example.org
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Source: Dinithi Goonatilaka
About the author: Dinithi Goonatilaka is a recently qualified pharmacist who graduated from University College London.