Pharmacist preregistration trainees are full-time employees, so they need to adjust to a new work environment, study for the registration assessment and juggle their everyday commitments. The preregistration year is stressful, but for hard-working and disciplined individuals, it pays off. And in return for being good employees, trainees have certain expectations of their training providers, but these expectations are not always met.
In 2017, I spent a lot of time researching potential training sites listed through Oriel — the centralised recruitment platform for preregistration training in England, Scotland and Wales — and I ranked my preferences thoughtfully. Despite spending hours reading the materials provided in various links and brochures, I still had many questions. Unfortunately, only a fraction of the placements listed had included their contact details, and many of the providers I did contact with questions, never replied.
In November 2018, I received notification from Oriel about my preregistration site. I was happy with the provider I had been allocated to; I had ranked this community pharmacy site highly and it was a short commute from home to work. The company was also well known for its training programme.
A few months before beginning my training I requested to visit my placement and my tutor. My request was denied, and I was permitted only a short meeting with my tutor to complete some paperwork. She was an experienced pharmacist and I was looking forward to working with her; however, despite being proactive during my training, my requests to take on additional responsibilities were often denied or ignored.
The work expected of me made acquiring evidence for the required competencies difficult. I felt that I was only there to act as a dispenser — not to learn and expand on my clinical skills. Dispensing is an important part of pharmacy work but I could have done more in that store. I could have had more interaction with patients, counselled them on their medicines, applied my clinical knowledge to help patients and answer their questions, performed controlled drug register balances and entries, and learned about ordering and stock management in a pharmacy. Moreover, I was not given advance notice of my shifts and I often had to make last-minute adjustments to study or cancel organised plans to work. I tried to schedule meetings with my tutor to discuss my concerns, but communicating with her proved difficult.
When I applied to training sites, it never occured to me that I would need to swap placements — I do not give up easily, I always try to do everything to the best of my ability, and I tend to have high expectations of myself. But I reached a point where I felt staying in that pharmacy would have a negative impact on my career. Speaking to other trainees who were progressing with their learning made me feel as if I was not accomplishing the goals I had set for myself at the beginning of the year.
Fortunately, I was able to raise my concerns with the organisation’s learning and development trainers. They were considerate, provided useful advice and helped me move to a different branch. I was lucky enough to move sites without having to restart the year. I am so grateful for their support and the effort they put into the training days to make them useful and interactive.
Despite starting at the new pharmacy only seven months before the registration assessment, my new team and tutor were professional and supportive. The small age gap between my tutor and I made communication easy. She had a better understanding of the preregistration experience and the difficulties trainees face during the year. Unfortunately, she left the company a few weeks before the registration exam to pursue a different career path, meaning I had to move to a third branch. Disappointingly, it took my training provider 12 weeks to decide where to allocate me next. This meant I only found out two days prior to the assessment where my third branch would be, only adding to my pre-exam anxiety. To my relief, my new tutor was understanding and welcoming, but I was only at this branch for another four weeks after sitting the registration assessment.
Thankfully, I made it through the year and registered in August 2019. Now, I reflect on this experience with a positive attitude. I believe that if it was not for that challenging experience, I would not have been able to work flexibly as a locum pharmacist; but despite this, no pharmacy student or preregistration trainee should have to go through this trouble. The preregistration year is already hard enough.
For the benefit of preregistration trainees, all providers should focus on the experience they give to trainees and value their expectations. And all future trainees should spend as much time as possible researching and ranking their choices.
If you are a pharmacy student or preregistration trainee in need of advice or support, please contact any of the following organisations:
Source: Diba Keyhanfar
About the author:
Diba Keyhanfar is a locum pharmacist who registered in August 2019.