Team PreReg has helped students pass a difficult registration assessment and now plans a “master-class” in support. Its co-founder Harvinder Mann talks to Neil Trainis

 

The community pharmacists of tomorrow are in good hands even if that has not always been the prevailing feeling. The examination pre-registration trainee pharmacists have to sit has had its share of problems.

The September edition two years ago saw students forced to complete what was widely regarded as immensely difficult calculations in a very short space of time. Calculations described as “unrealistic” by Umm Muhammad who felt strongly enough to petition the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) on the issue. Calculations, he added, “which we will never encounter in practice.”

Indeed, the idea that the exam has failed to reflect what actually goes on inside a community pharmacy on a daily basis has been a recurring theme. Take the June 2017 exam as an example. The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) received almost 600 emails from students and the large majority of those expressed concerns about paper two of that assessment.

According to the BPSA, more than 500 students said it “was not a true nor accurate reflection of real practice and many went on to say that the assessment was not reflective of the practice of newly qualified pharmacists.” Other concerns included ambiguous questions, a lack of time to check over answers, even inadequate desk space.

For many budding pharmacists the panacea has been Team PreReg, winners of the Pharmacy Business Enterprise Award. It was set up by four pharmacists three years ago to help students pass the exam.

Harvinder Mann, one of its co-founders, insists the GPhC has addressed some of the concerns. There has been progress.

“The GPhC have made it more clinically relevant and have introduced areas that are relevant for pharmacy practice,” he says.

“A lot of the questions are more scenario-based. They’ve done very well in ensuring they use scenario-based questions which allows students to apply their knowledge.

“The previous exam was going for about 20 years and was not fit for purpose. They’ve changed the exam because of the changing role of the pharmacist. But there’s been a lot of uncertainty about the new syllabus which is why we’re here to guide students through their revision.”

The pre-registration training market is competitive but Team PreReg have stood out for their willingness to listen to students and provide what is missing. For instance, students have found it difficult locating the variety of topics they need to go over when reading the syllabus and so Harvinder and his colleagues created a syllabus guide to point them in the right direction.

They also created a competency guide while their resources for calculations and clinical knowledge have been welcomed with open arms by stressed students.

“The biggest hurdles we’ve found are that students often struggle to find the time to study or train,” Harvinder suggests.

“A lot of them are not getting adequate training time to focus on things like service provision every week and every month. Pharmacies may not be adequately staffed and it’s very hard for us to help them because their colleagues are very busy and they feel bad going off to study.

“We’ve found this is true in hospital pharmacy and community pharmacy but it mainly occurs in community pharmacy. I work in hospital pharmacy myself and there are a lot more resources and ring-fenced time for students to do their training.

“It’s the smaller independents where they are not getting the time to focus on training. In the large multiples they have to do training but this isn’t necessarily the case in small independents. The students we get asking us for help are isolated in independent pharmacies.”

As the Pharmacy Business Awards roving judge Richard Brown observed last year, Team PreReg’s success “is reflected in the number of members using the service. From 50 in year one to over 1,200 in year three, growth has been remarkable and helped by a large multiple using the content to support its programme.”

The group has diversified too, rolling out support clubs which focus on clinical case studies and calculations. Harvinder says Team PreReg is intent on providing “a mater-class with extra support” for students.

“Next year we’re developing our course and we’ll be providing a mater-class with extra support for students on calculations and clinical content. We’ve found that students want support with this. We’re also looking at supporting our e-learning platform more so it can help students fulfil their competencies.”

It feels like Team PreReg has come quite a long way since its creation in February 2015. Almost as far as the GPhC has in developing the assessment. Harvinder insists Team PreReg is “not there to replace existing training providers but supplement them.”

“We’ve increased our membership,” he adds. “There’s a lot of competition with more pre-reg providers on the market. We’re still the one students are choosing because of the resources we have and our reputation.

“We give a lot more content and allow students to take resources home with them. We offer online e-learning resources and textbook resources. And we’re doing question banks which we send out every week.

“We refresh our resources but we still send books out because it’s good to use a variety of different methods and resources rather than just textbooks or just e-learning.

“It’s better to have a mixture of the two and helps students remember and retain information better.”

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