Team Pre-Reg managing director Jay Modhvadia looks at the challenges, pitfalls and solutions for budding pharmacists…
So, you’ve made it! After years of education, you’ve only got one year left before you’re a fully qualified pharmacist out in the big world.
That being said, this year is different. For the first time it is compulsory for you to hold down a full-time job whilst trying to prepare for the all-important exam and maintain some semblance of a social life. Therein lies the first problem.
You shouldn’t see your placement and preparation for the exam as two different entities. Don’t get me wrong, we all do it (me included) but the sooner you realise that your placement isn’t just a job and plays an integral role in your preparation for the exam, the smoother things will go.
Remember, the things you experience in the pharmacy are exactly what the exam is designed to test and there is no better way to prepare than with real world scenarios. So here are a few things that will allow you to build on different areas of your preparation.
1. Do you struggle with OTC? Work on the counter and ask counter staff to pass pharmacist queries via you so that you can work through the query before discussing the best course of action with the pharmacist.
2. Do you struggle with clinical? Whilst labelling, pay attention to the PMR system. Most if not all systems will flag up interactions including the severity. Another way to help revise and cover different conditions is during tasks such as dispensing and even date checking. Ask yourself; what is the drug used for? What monitoring is required? What are the key side-effects?
3. Do you struggle with calculations? Ask the team to pass any calculation-based Rx/query through to you. Remember a qualified pharmacist will be there to help you.
4. Do you struggle with law and ethics? GET INVOLVED! Every single pharmacy experiences at least one legal/ethical dilemma every day. It’s your choice whether you get involved and learn from it or stand at the back of the dispensary and pretend like nothing is going on. Sometimes it may not be possible to be directly involved but learn to become a passive listener and listen to the discussions going on around you. Break it down yourself but remember – in a lot of situations there isn’t just one right answer.
Now having worked in a busy pharmacy during my pre-registration year, I know there isn’t always time to discuss situations or look up a drug monograph and that’s why I used to keep a small notepad with me so that I could make a note of anything I wasn’t sure about and revisit it later.
That brings me on to my next point; support. Utilise every resource that you have at your disposal and I don’t just mean the BNF! Your tutor is always going to be a key source of information but it doesn’t stop there.
The whole team, ranging from counter staff to area managers, will each have a unique skillset and pools of knowledge for you to learn from. For example, if you’ve just covered a particular OTC topic, discuss it with the team.
It will be a good way for you to consolidate and revise that topic and potentially pick up key details and facts, which you may have missed. Beyond the regular team there are also locums. Personally, I learnt just as much from the locums that I worked with during my pre-registration year as I did from my tutor.
By having worked in a range of different settings, a locum is likely to have experienced a range of different scenarios and conditions all of which could help you prepare for that elusive exam. Sometimes it can be a case of learning what kind of pharmacist you do not want to be.
Finally, a piece of advice when looking to prepare for the exam; start early and work in small chunks. Creating a monthly timetable will help to achieve this. The reason why I say monthly is because in the real world things don’t always go to plan.
You may find a particular area more difficult or even a lot easier then you anticipated and so you can always adjust the next timetable to accommodate for this. Cramming a month before the exam is not going to help and don’t create unnecessary pressure by setting yourself unrealistic goals either.
For example, when working on conditions don’t aim to cover a whole chapter in the BNF in one sitting. Instead, focus on a couple of drug groups at a time and really understand the key information involved. You can then test the newly acquired information when you come across the drugs/conditions at work over the next few days.
I’ve found that this really helps when it comes to calculations. Spending all weekend looking at numbers will leave you feeling like you’re in the matrix! Instead, set yourself a few calculations a day/week and you will find regular repetition and exposure will leave you feeling better prepared and allow you to better utilise your time.