Having come back late from abroad I awoke to messages telling me to check my email. As I opened them, I was still so drowsy I had not given myself time to get nervous. The first line I saw was, ‘Congratulations you have passed’, and with that I patiently waited for my mum to wake up to tell her the good news.

The reason I didn’t feel nerves before my registration assessment results was that I had come to terms with the fact that if I had not passed it did not reflect on my abilities as a newly qualified pharmacist, more that I had not revised the correct material. I realised, since starting work, what was deemed as ‘worth’ was a lot less based on exam results rather what you bring to the table as an individual.

My pre-registration year was a rollercoaster to put it in short. Having graduated on a complete high from university a part of me definitely thought that the hardest times had past. How wrong was I. I had obtained the hospital pre-reregistration post I had so desired all be it a little further south than had been preferred. The first 4 weeks was induction and all the thrill and excitement of a new job drained by the hour with the monotony. But soon came our first rotation and to my surprise I had maternity as mine. I had been told that this was a trial rotation with many people questioning its place in a pre-registration programme however this rotation was an important learning curve for me. There are always positives to take from situations that seem less favourable. As a first rotation, although pharmacologically there was not the same magnitude of complicity general medical wards had, it’s a speciality many fear. I can confidently say that from this rotation I am quietly confident with Obstetrics. My drug history taking skills were not developed and I rarely had to transcribe anything, but I could definitely pick up on VTE prophylaxis errors with confidence and had a good working relationship with the midwives. Furthermore, I met an inspiring pharmacist who taught me so much more than a BNF ever could.

Moving towards Christmas and the New Year I rotated onto general medicine wards which was a shock to the system to say the least. I feel throughout my year I have been very fortunate with those I have worked beside. What I think is one of the most important things I have learnt is that you will learn just as much from those you aspire to be than the practitioners that you aspire not to be. On the medical wards, I had charts snatched out of my hands, colleagues walk away when I was trying to have a conversation with them and a patient’s relative shout at me, her face an inch from mine. I don’t know if it was the 2 hours of sunlight a day or the constant bed pressures which were splashed across every newspaper but Christmas put doubts in my mind. I wondered weekly possibly daily at points if this was for me. Why did I go to university for 4 years for a qualification that the vast majority of people don’t understand what you actually do? Sticking labels on boxes is the cliché of the pharmacy world but it still makes me angry. The end of 2016 to the start of 2017 was a tough time because the word ‘revision’ kept being thrown about and I had my own personal doubts in the direction of my career.

Pushing through towards the end of January, I got the little pick up I needed in the form of 2 weeks in a community pharmacy. It gave me a break from hospital and also reaffirmed that although hospital work is challenging, community pharmacy is most definitely not for me. That said I had a great 2 weeks with the staff there. Their pre-registration pharmacist was from close to where my home is which also helped boost my moral, as the Scottish accent is only ever charming!

From there to the end of my rotational year saw me move into paediatrics, aseptics and medicine information. With the year coming to a close saw the exam move ever closer. I was fortunate in the timing of my MI rotation as there was time for reading in-between inquiries and the inquiries themselves were often relating to pregnancy and breastfeeding which is quite a hot topic in the exam.

Having completed my pre-registration year I believe my concise advice would be; keep your cool. The biggest thing I have learnt personally is that it’s okay not to be okay all the time. There are days you don’t want to even look at a patient let alone talk to them but you will get through it and come out the other side. It’s a tough year mentally and physically which I don’t think I took into account so cut yourself a bit of slack. Most importantly, it is not about the exam. If you actively learn all the way through the year I genuinely feel like revision won’t come as a complete shock to the system. Yes I didn’t know all the medicines that colour your urine (comes up every year!) but what I did learn was solidified as if you put the theory into practise you don’t have to learn it, you know it. Identify a stroke patient and look at the management plan because then when challenged with a question, a picture of that drug chart will float to the top of your head leaving the rest of your brain free for facts about how many cubic metres of medicine waste can be held in community.

I have grown so much as an individual this year and if that wasn’t enough I am now a GPhC registered pharmacist ready to raise the profile of an incredible profession that keeps us all safe.

Kathryn Lang, Clinical Hospital Pharmacist U.K.

5 thoughts on “My year as a Pre-registration pharmacist…the highs and the lows.

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