Top 10 tips to all current and future pre-registration pharmacists
This article containing 10 tips for pre-registration pharmacists was written by Nicholas Colwyn Parry, a locum pharmacist working across the UK, and a subscriber to the My Locum Choice Software.
Last year many of you never had a normal graduation, which is sad as it’s meant to be one of the happiest days of your life. For those who are yet to graduate picture this: Sun is shining (hopefully), your family are there, all your classmates are with you and everyone is celebrating your 4 years of study come to a successful end. Your parents will probably cry. Bring tissues. Plus, you get some fire selfies of you in a cap and gown and there’s one hell of a party after.
But what if I told you graduating isn’t the best day of your life if your end goal is to become a pharmacist?
That’s because your degree is somewhat irrelevant if you want to be a practising pharmacist, simply because you do not graduate as a pharmacist but you qualify as one!
Besides, graduation day isn’t all that. Thousands of you are crammed into a Cathedral, it’s really hot and sweaty and you’re sat in about 4 layers for 3 hours just to hear someone who doesn’t know you from Adam say “well done”. No joke, the person who shook my hand told me “I knew you’d do it” and I had literally seen this man for the first time in my life about 30 minutes before I walked across that stage. In short, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.
The scroll they gave me to hold for my photo was actually a piece of PVC pipe with a ribbon around it.
Like I said, you qualify as a pharmacist, so to me graduation just meant I had one more year before I had truly achieved my goal.
Enter the pre-registration year.
The pre-registration year is more than likely going to be the toughest year of your entire life (it certainly was for me).
I hope reading this blog helps you with your year, and please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you’re struggling, you are not alone! The points listed below are probably the biggest mistakes I made in my pre-reg year, so I am writing them here to help you avoid them. Transparency and reflection are key tools in your journey to being a better human, not just a better pharmacist.
My top 10 tips for Pre-registration pharmacists, both current and future:
1. Let your mind rest!
I cannot stress this one enough, it’s probably my number one downfall and something I still have to work on daily. It is incredibly important with regards to the pre-reg year as I started my revision back in September and almost burned myself out around Easter. I was reading my September notes like it was the first time just weeks before my exam. You cannot learn everything in a day, so take regular breaks, space it out, and make sure you understand and can apply your knowledge before moving on.
2. Get a routine and get up early
You will not understand how hard it is to pick up a pen after a full day in work. You will probably finish at 6, get home and make food about 7 and finally sit down around 8, then you need to find the energy to revise/gym etc. The vast majority of you are more active in the mornings and therefore more productive. This was probably the hardest thing for me to achieve and I became so regimented toward the end, I had an alarm for nearly everything I needed to do in a day. This tactic worked for me although it was becoming slightly toxic, it really isn’t for everyone! I got so engrossed in my routine I even had to have an alarm to tell me to eat. This year is about budgeting time, not just money.
This is something that will only help you in later life. Everyone is an expert at something, try and figure it out. I have connected with people all over the world and stayed in contact with them as we may be able to help one another in the future. Remember you can plan for the future, but the future doesn’t have a plan for you, it’s always good to be connected in case you need a plan B. Being networked will give you that advantage when the registration assessment is fast approaching as people will share notes and past papers. My personal belief is your circle defines you, and you are a direct product of your associate’s influences, beliefs and attitudes. If you surround yourself with other hard-working supportive individuals, you will do nothing but succeed! Conferences, pre reg days, BPSA LinkedIn etc are all fantastic ways to network with likeminded individuals who may be able to help you and vice versa.
4. Save money
I had no idea how expensive it would be to qualify! Some companies will pay all costs, other people’s families may cover theirs. I recommend saving about £80 a month to help cover all your fees you will have to pay toward the end of the year for mocks, indemnity insurance, travel possibly a hotel at assessment area, the registration assessment itself and also to register with the GPhC! This comes to around £1000 so saving £80 a month for 12 months works out as £960 which you won’t notice it if you set up a standing order.
5. Go to mocks!
The mocks I sat weren’t like the real exam in terms of content, some were 100x harder than the real thing, but if you do them you will learn the syllabus a lot more in depth. Remember you are studying to be a pharmacist, not to pass an exam. I remember achieving the highest grade in my buttercups training group, but it was still below 70%. In fact, I actually never passed a single mock. Mocks prove themselves invaluable by simulating the exact conditions you will be sitting your registration assessment, and that’s something you can’t do at home! It’s also best to find out all your stationery is appropriate rather than turning up on the day and wondering how to use your calculator, or worse finding out it’s not an allowable piece of stationery and you have to do the exam without it!
6. Maximise the time you have on the weekends
Do whatever works for you, whether it’s revising 10 hours a day or absolutely nothing and letting a week’s worth of new knowledge you’ve acquired sink in! One of my best friends was watching back to back world cup games a week before the exam, but for someone who loves football as much as him, he swears if he didn’t do that he would never have passed. By all means make time for friends and family but remember your revision will allow you to pass that exam, going out with your friends all the time won’t, it’s a small sacrifice for a big return, they will understand! Never ever forget to make time for yourself!
7. Make use of every method of revision
Whether it’s reading or listening to a podcast, I know I’ve mentioned them before but I found Sureena Speaks and Abraham the Pharmacist’s videos very good, concise and accurate information to review my understanding of new knowledge. More recently qualifyfastpharmacy.co.uk is a very reliable resource to help practice and understand pharmacy calculations for the registration assessment. You should by now have a good idea of what method works best for you with regards to revision, so stick to that.
8. Don’t ask what something is for, go and find out yourself!
If you see something in work and wonder what the use of it is, then ask for 5 minutes to study it in depth! By doing this and finding out the information yourself, you will remember it more easily as you will have summarised it in your own words rather than someone telling you “it’s for x”. Your tutor is there to support you and should allow you to go and look it up, especially if it is an area of pharmacy they aren’t too familiar with either! I was lucky to have one of the greatest and most supportive tutors a pre-reg could have asked for!
9. Be confident in yourself but not too confident
When you’re delivering information, you will find a lot of things that are on the guidelines are never abided by in practice. You’re going to see people ordering 2 salbutamol inhalers every month with no (inhaled corticosteroid) ICS for asthma. That therapy may work for more effective for the patient due to whole number of reasons. You may be correct by thinking they could do with an ICS, but this year is going to teach you a lot about people, not just pharmacy.
10. Don’t worry about jobs
Ignore the big multiples and pharmacy owners saying “the job market is drying up”, and “it’s hard to find a job nowadays” as they are just trying to fill a position easier. They are just trying to get you to sign a contract that’s way below what I think a pharmacist should be paid!!! However, a business operates a bigger profit margin with a lower overhead cost, so can you blame them? Believe me there is plenty of work out there, I had 3 offers from 3 different places before I’d even found out I had passed my exam, and there is always locum shifts! Stay tuned as I have couple of blogs coming up on how to boss an interview, and some tricks on how to negotiate a better wage with as little as one sentence.
Hopefully this helps steer you away from mistakes I have made in the past, and if you ever are struggling there is support available! There is also an independent pharmacy charity called Pharmacist Support that can help financially and also with sound advice I personally spoke to a listening friend from their charity when I was a pre-registration pharmacist and felt like I had no one else to turn to, so believe me when I say they can help you.
They provide unrivalled unbiased and confidential support for those within the pharmacy profession who need it most.
If you found these top 10 tips for pre-registration pharmacists useful, you can read more on my journey as a Locum Pharmacist on the My Locum Choice Blog.