If you don’t already know, the Pre-Reg year is an extra year on top of your MPharm studies. It’s a training year that’s essential to becoming a fully registered pharmacist. Natasha Kam, a former pharmacy student at the University of Sunderland, completed her Pre-Reg training at a community pharmacy and now works as a Production Pharmacist at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary. Here's everything she thinks you need to know about Pre-Reg training at the University.
So, Natasha, how did your pre-reg training differ from your MPharm studies at the University of Sunderland?
“Because the MPharm course is made to cater for patient-centred care, the pre-registration placement did not differ too greatly from what we went through at University. Most people go into hospital and community pharmacy because this skill is widely used – we come into contact with patients every day.
“I did my pre-reg training at a community pharmacy last year and I really enjoyed it. I was able to put all the theoretical work from the course into practice, and the case study sessions provided within the course helped me understand the kind of roles that pharmacists play in society.
“We had to be really confident with the law and regulations beforehand, but my training year gave me experience in communicating with difficult patients and dealing with awkward situations.”
What did you find most difficult about your Pre-Reg year?
“Having to juggle between work at the pharmacy and studying for the Pre-Reg exam was quite difficult. Looking back now, I've excelled in time management and learning how to cope with lots of stress. I had to learn how to prioritise my tasks effectively and I'm proud of myself that I managed to do so.”
Did you receive any help from the staff at the University to help you cope with the pressures of the work placement and your exams?
“The lecturers are very professional and approachable. They always try to keep their doors open, allowing us to pop in to see them if we had any problems with our work.
“Some of the lecturers are practicing pharmacists – some even own their own chemists, so students were able to have work placements through them. That enabled everyone to shadow different staff within each pharmacy including dispensers, pharmacy technicians, and counter assistants, allowing us to get a wider scope of the pharmaceutical industry.”
What was the most rewarding aspect of your placement?
“During my Pre-Reg placement in the community setting, I enjoyed speaking to different patients with different conditions about their medication. I enjoyed giving them advice about how to improve their health and quality of life.
“I think the most rewarding thing is to have patients coming back looking to speak to you in particular – you know that you’ve made a difference in their lives!
“I also enjoyed the challenge of building a rapport with other health care professionals, finding out what they do and then trying to apply this knowledge to my own work.”
What advice would you give to students who are close to starting their Pre-Reg year in order to give themselves the best chance of success?
“Well, we were the last batch to take the old format of exams. The next batch of pre-reg pharmacists taking the exam this year have a more integrated system, but the core is still similar. My advice to future Pre-Reg students is this:
- Make sure you widen your scope of study and don't be confined to your field
- If you’re in a community pharmacy make sure you buck up on your clinical skills as hospital pharmacists are more in tune with that
- For hospital pharmacists, make sure you know about the business aspects of pharmacy, what services are available in a retail setting and learn to recognise signs and symptoms of referrals over the counter as well as licensing ages of products and maximum doses of common medications
- It will be good to know the NHS framework, current guidelines and treatment updates, information from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and production and preparation from the orange book and yellow guide
- Read up on clinical audits and risk management. You can find this information on the RPS (Royal Pharmaceutical Society) website and NPSA/PDA websites
The Sciences Complex where you'll be based
Any final advice for students who are about to start their pre-registration year?
“The Pre-Reg year has definitely equipped me with the important skills needed to be a pharmacist. I have grown and learnt so much in terms of managing people, systems, dealing with customers, screening prescriptions and providing suitable help and consultations to the public. It has taught me to think outside of the box! However, this is only the beginning of my long-term career. Pharmacy has such a never-ending career progression – you could go into the community (being the store/branch manager or you could even work for yourself by being a locum), or go into hospitals and specialise in mental health including cardiology and oncology. You've also the option to work as an academic, or to work in sales and marketing.
In short, being a pharmacist is about being in the front-line of the health care system. Selecting this as your future career will help you grow compassion, be more customer focussed, and encourage you to think more professionally. It is not just a job; it will literally change your life.
How the University of Sunderland can help you prepare for the Pre-Registration Year
Advice from Kathryn Davison, Team Leader for Pharmacy Practice and Clinical Therapeutics Team
What can I do?
“You will generally enter one of two sectors, either community pharmacy or hospital pharmacy, although some students do combined Pre-Registration years that allow time in both. There is also a small minority of opportunities in other sectors such as industry and academia.
“Each sector is distinctly different with regards to daily working practices but pharmacists must be at a minimum level of competence that would allow transition into any place of work.
“The competencies (set by the General Pharmaceutical Council) that must be met throughout the pre-registration year are the same regardless of which area you practice in,” says Kathryn.
What support will I get?
She adds: "Applications for placements are made through a national system known as the Oriel system. This is similar to the UCAS system – you can preference where you want to work, write your application and track its progress. You will then undertake an interview/assessment process before you are offered a post.
“You will be given a great deal of support with the application process and we run a programme specific careers fayre every year, allowing you to meet employers and build awareness of potential career opportunities at relevant points in your undergraduate studies."