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Become a tutor to guide trainees through their first year of work

What responsibilities do preregistration tutors have, and what skills do they need? Anne Edwards and Jon Standing describe the role in this third article in our tutoring series

Five tips for becoming a successful tutor

As a preregistration tutor, you are responsible for shaping the standard and quality of the future pharmacy workforce. This may sound daunting and it can be challenging, but it is a rewarding role.

Preregistration pharmacy trainees need tutors for many reasons, including:

  • To act as a professional role model for them
  • To motivate and encourage them
  • To give them feedback, one-to-one support, guidance and regular appraisal
  • To discuss and troubleshoot their problems

The General Pharmaceutical Council expects that a tutor will be a positive example for the trainee and help them to derive maximum benefit from their training.

What experience or training do you need to be a tutor?

To become a preregistration tutor, you must have been practising in the sector in which you would like to tutor for at least three years, work more than 26 hours over four days each week, and not be under investigation by the GPhC.

There is no formal training to become a tutor but regional support units have tutor update sessions and training days to provide support and guidance. The GPhC also has an online training and support package and there are advisers available on the phone to help.

A proportion of your continuing professional development (CPD) entries should pertain to your tutoring role to show you are achieving the new GPhC tutor standards. Some CPD topics that could be covered include dealing with an exam failure, resolving conflict and judging preregistration trainee audit posters.

Achieving performance standards

There are 76 performance standards and 45 knowledge requirements on the preregistration syllabus. The trainees must produce evidence of the activities they have undertaken to show their competence for these standards. Evidence may include written accounts of an event, testimonials from other members of the pharmacy team, observed activities, mini clinical evaluation exercise (CEX) assessments and objective structured clinical evaluations (OSCEs).

You may feel it is necessary for your trainees to show that they can carry out certain activities in different settings or at different times during the year, so each performance standard will need several pieces of evidence.

It is important that trainees are able to carry out calculations accurately, so they need to achieve 70 per cent in the calculations section alone to pass the exam.

Regular practice and assessment of calculations throughout the year is advisable to identify difficulties early on and help trainees gain confidence. It is your role as a tutor to organise and facilitate a wide variety of activities to achieve these goals.

The trainee’s audit

One performance standard requires trainees to complete a short audit, for which they will need your support. To ensure they select a topic that interests them, it is worth providing them with a selection of titles to choose from.

It is vital they carry out an audit that will be of use to the department or organisation so the trainees can see how their work will have a direct impact on patient care or service provision. Helping them to devise a set of standards and test their data collection forms before they start will make the process easier.

Sometimes it may be more appropriate for another pharmacist or technician to supervise the trainees for their audits, particularly if the subject is a specialist area unfamiliar to you.

Conducting appraisals and addressing concerns

The preregistration year usually starts in July or early August and the trainees must complete 45 weeks of training before they can sit their exam in June the following year. If trainees are absent for more than 40 days due to annual leave, sickness or public holidays, it may affect their eligibility to sit the exam or register on a certain date. There are three formal appraisals at 13, 26, and 39 weeks. Without a satisfactory appraisal outcome at 39 weeks, the trainees are not allowed to sit the registration exam.

If you have concerns about your trainees, these must be dealt with appropriately. Receiving constructive feedback from a tutor will often change a trainee’s behaviours or attitudes and help them towards a satisfactory outcome. However, the problems may require a higher level intervention and you may need to discuss them with your manager or superintendent pharmacist, or even with the GPhC, to get the best advice to help your trainee.

At the end of the year, you are responsible for assessing whether trainees are suitable to join the register, based on their competence, behaviours and attitudes.

It is satisfying to watch a trainee develop in confidence and knowledge and make the transition from student to registered professional. I feel great personal pride when a trainee is successfully appointed to their first job as a qualified pharmacist. Your trainees will remember you for a long time, since we remember our tutors and the impact they had on us becoming the pharmacists we are today.

About the authors

Anne Edwards is senior pharmacist for education and training at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and Jon Standing is chief pharmacist at Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11139042

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