Training during a pandemic: tips for new preregistration trainees
Pharmacy professionals share their advice with the new cohort of preregistration pharmacists about to start their training during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open access article
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
To learn more about coronavirus, please visit: https://www.rpharms.com/resources/pharmacy-guides/wuhan-novel-coronavirus
Many pharmacists will remember the excitement and eager anticipation they felt at the start of their preregistration training. However, few will be familiar with the anxiety the next cohort of trainees will be experiencing as they commence their training in the midst of a global pandemic.
The structure of the preregistration training year will be different to previous years, but with the guidance and support of their tutors and training providers, trainees will still be able to develop the skills and knowledge to practice confidently and competently.
Here, pharmacy professionals share their tips and advice to future preregistration pharmacists who will embark on the next stage of their career in mid-July 2020. Their social media contact details have been included should future trainees wish to connect or seek more advice.
“Try make the most of every learning opportunity”
The build-up to the preregistration year can be worrying — especially during a public health emergency. Understandably, you may be anxious about how this will affect your training, but do not let this dampen your enthusiasm.
With or without the pandemic, the year will be beneficial if you are proactive, eager to learn and willing to take on new challenges.
Although you may be presented with difficult situations, try to make the most of every learning opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge required. Reflect on your experiences often and learn to seek and take feedback to help you improve. Use the guidance of tutors and senior staff members to help you develop. Regularly set goals with your tutor and work together to achieve them. And always speak up and ask questions if you are unsure.
Roohi Ahmed Khushtar is a preregistration pharmacist at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Manchester.
“Utilise the knowledge of everyone around you”
Starting a new job can be daunting, especially when it requires you to put four years of classroom learning into practice for the first time.
Remember, you only get out what you put in. My main piece of advice would be to utilise the knowledge of everyone around you. Speak to experts and ask to go on ward rounds with doctors and medication rounds with nurses.
Newly qualified junior doctors are in a similar situation to you and can also feel quite out of their depth. I find chatting to them on the wards and building a relationship, based on your shared experiences, to be helpful. It is also good to feel comfortable around them as you will be reviewing their prescribing and discussing it with them.
Try to get exposure to as many different areas as possible. A well-rounded, multi-disciplinary experience during your preregistration year can really make your training so much more enjoyable.
Callum Garner is a preregistration pharmacist at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Tyne and Wear.
“Find a support network”
Training in primary care, there will be a lot to take in, especially when learning how to use the IT system and undertake population reporting. So, it is important to find a support network.
I joined a primary care pharmacists WhatsApp group set up by Ashburton Prescribing and found it extremely beneficial. The Primary Care Pharmacy Association also has a Telegram group for provisionally registered pharmacists and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) provides extensive support for preregistration trainees. These will provide you access to a wonderful network of pharmacists who help each other with professional and clinical queries.
During your training, you will encounter plenty of clinical queries and IT issues, many of which have already been experienced by the pharmacists in your support network, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Every time I have asked a question, I have always received a quick and friendly reply.
Also — it sounds simple — but carrying a notebook is very useful for jotting down clinical topics that you need to revise. This will also help you understand how you are developing, as you will notice that as you progress in your primary care training, the less you will need to refer to your notebook.
Irum Islam is a preregistration pharmacist at Imaan Healthcare and Ashburton Prescribing, Liverpool.
The preregistration year is challenging, but exhilarating. Your graduation signalled the transition from study to practice. This year is more than just preparing for an exam — it is the beginning of your journey as a pharmacist. Your preregistration year will be the product of your efforts and attitude. My advice is to be proactive.
Before your training begins, you should visit the site and meet the team, and if possible speak to the current preregistration trainee. When you do start, consider your working relationships and understand that integration is vital to success. Remember: you are part of a team — no-one is beneath you and everyone is a teacher.
Focus on continuing your education and understand that you can learn something from everything. Try to adopt the learner’s mentality — assume you know nothing and ask many questions. Importantly, remember to start your revision early.
Speak to as many people as you can about their careers, as this can help you understand what you want to do in the future and can help build your professional image.
Go through all 76 General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) Performance Standards and consider how each can be met; if you are unsure, ask your tutor what they expect from the evidence you need to provide. This will help you identify opportunities.
Noel Kizere is preregistration pharmacist at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Manchester.
“Don’t be afraid to voice any concerns”
You are coming into the workforce at a time when we have learnt a lot more about the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and the protective measures that we need for ourselves and our patients. Be sure to read up on local and national guidance, and to challenge your colleagues if these are not practiced at your workplace. For example, if you see people not complying with local guidance on social distancing measures.
Once you are following the guidance, it will help ease any anxiety with regards to the pandemic. Don’t be afraid to voice any concerns to your line manager and/or tutor, as they will most likely have encountered these themselves or while managing the previous preregistration cohort during the pandemic.
From my personal experience, the workplace can be quite flexible in ensuring that you work within areas that you feel safe and comfortable in, so make a point of raising any concerns you might have. Besides your own organisation, there are many avenues for support, including the RPS and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association.
Kendra Moore is a preregistration pharmacist at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
“Nurture your tutor–trainee relationship”
Although this is a daunting time to start your training, it is also a great opportunity to make a positive impact on the wellbeing of others, as well as develop skills that will be valuable for the rest of your career.
Firstly, list any questions you may have, such as:
- How will my workplace training programme be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? And will my working times be affected?
- What is happening about my study days?
Secondly, contact your tutor if you haven’t done so already. Ideally, arrange to speak via a telephone or video call to help nurture your tutor–trainee relationship. They will be able to answer the questions above.
Thirdly, network. One way to do this is to register with Twitter and follow @TheGPhC, @rpharms, your employer and training provider to name a few. This will also help you keep up to date with any news that might affect your training.
Helen Ireland is pharmacist preregistration training lead at Pharmacy Workforce Development South, University Hospitals Bristol.
“You are needed now more than ever”
You are about to start your training in the middle of a pandemic but do not let the present crisis dampen your spirit, you are needed now more than ever.
I want you to look at our current trainee pharmacists across the country as a source of inspiration. Reach out to past and present trainees through your network or social media, and ask them about their experiences. They started with the same skillset as you and have demonstrated what it takes to navigate the training year. Look to develop the following:
- Resilience — you will work in challenging environments, but make sure to take care of your mental and physical wellbeing;
- Versatility — plan training objectives with your tutor and how they could be met in various scenarios;
- Teamwork — recognise when to ask for assistance; your team wants you to succeed and will be willing to help.
Embrace the opportunity to show your potential, contextualise your knowledge and seek out new experiences.
Harun Juwale is North West preregistration pharmacy training lead, University of Manchester.
“Develop good portfolios of evidence from the beginning”
It is important that tutors and preregistration trainees look at the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and approach each year as if it could happen again.
One of the major lessons is making sure you develop good portfolios of evidence from the beginning: don’t wait until the end to cram evidence collection or rely on persuasion to get you through, as this will not help you succeed as a pharmacist — especially not during a global pandemic.
You cannot rely solely on observed practise to get you signed off as competent, it may be that your site or tutor could change overnight, and your final sign-off may be in the hands of someone who hasn’t worked much with you directly. Without a strong portfolio of evidence, you are relying on someone’s goodwill to sign you off as competent, which is something no pharmacist should do.
Khalid Khan is head of training and professional standards at Imaan Healthcare.
“Be punctual, personable, professional, passionate and patient”
Nobody, since records began, has started their preregistration during a pandemic. Start thinking now about how you are going to develop your consultation skills while wearing personal protective equipment. Get used to the idea of virtual training days at least for the first half of your year. From the outset, it’s important to be organised and follow my five Ps: be punctual, personable, professional, passionate and patient.
Embrace the idea of looking things up yourself and not being spoon-fed. Wear sensible shoes and network with others. Join the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association and a pharmacy union. Make use of all the resources available, which includes the preregistration manual on the GPhC website. Create a preregistration bucket list that outlines what you want to experience before you qualify.
It is important to be aware of the charity Pharmacist Support and know that you are never alone — you are part of the pharmacy family.
Babir Malik is preregistration and pharmacy student lead for Weldricks Pharmacy and teacher practitioner at the University of Bradford, West Yorkshire.
“Enjoy your first weeks and adapt to the ‘new normal’ ways of working”
When you start your preregistration training, you may notice that things might be different to what you expected. If you are in a group with other trainees, it is likely that your induction will be virtual or in an environment where social distancing is in place. This may affect how you get to know each other and the tutors who will be looking after you. When you start your rotations, you may not be able to visit certain patients or restricted clinical areas owing to COVID-19. Work with your tutor on ways to maximise your practical learning even with these restrictions in place.
That said, you must enjoy your first weeks and adapt to the ‘new normal’ ways of working. It is hard to adjust from being a student to being a trainee and this year will be no different as it takes some time to settle in and find your away around the department and the organisation. Trust us, you will be fine! Good luck.
Aamer Safdar is pharmacy education, training and workforce development team lead at Barts Health NHS Trust, London.
Advice from Twitter
Have a notebook to write things down, if you don’t know just say, ask qs and it’s not all about the exam— Expat Pharmacist (@PharmacistExpat) June 3, 2020
You don’t have to know every single thing. You need to know where to find the information.— claireslater (@claireslater191) June 4, 2020
- Take responsibility for yourself: learn from everything you do; don’t wait to be taught.— Jen Smith (@jensmithmi) June 4, 2020
- Don’t try to memorise everything: learn where to look for information.
- Use common sense.
- The patient is not the file.
- The real world is a lot messier than you were taught.
It will be different this year but you will still get the training you need - plan with your tutor— Amanda Kemp (@pharMandaC) June 4, 2020
Become part of the team - make yourself useful
techs have a wealth of knowledge and experience!
Use a diary for everything incl. writing evidences and prep for training sessions
1) You’ll be overwhelmed in the first 2-3 weeks. That’s fine, you’re not expected to know everything. So if you don’t know, ASK!— KCL Pharmacy Society (@KCLPharmSoc) June 4, 2020
2) Forget about the exam in the first month, learn to become a team member first. You surprisingly learn a lot on the job anyway.
Completely agree @Clairewynn— Umer Ayyaz (@UmerAyyaz91) June 7, 2020
The worst thing you can do is think “I won’t look professional or clever, if I have to look it up”. The resources are there for a reason and it does not take long at all to check
It’s the next part of the journey of learning and development. Take what you learnt from your MPharm (and wider) experience and apply it. Don’t think you have to ‘know’ everything. It’s about learnability (learning how to learn) #tipsfornewpreregs ps don’t forget V&B - v.impt!— Gautam Paul (@GautamChPaul) June 7, 2020
You are never alone. Always ask if unsure. Pick up the phone. Send a text. Look in the BNF. Take your time 🖤💙🖤— Mo🖤 #Alumni @KESBham @harvardmed @imperialcollege (@_MoNHS) June 7, 2020
Get to know your team, not just the pharmacists - the whole team! Find out what everyone’s role involves and the part they play in patient https://t.co/Wfww0HWOli good working relationships from day 1 & ask lots of questions. And, get into a good sleep pattern now!— Rebekah Verheul💊 (@RebekahVerheul) June 9, 2020
Don’t try and remember everything, it’s fine to look things up.— James Milner (@JmilnerPharm) June 9, 2020
Talk to your patients, they area wealth of information and will probably solve your problem for you
Just because it’s been wrong every month for the last 3 years doesn’t make it right now
Look after the dispensers and they will look after you. They seriously will make your entire working life better and they can teach you so much— Mr HipsterPharmacist (@PhilP85) June 10, 2020
1)Don’t expect to know everything in one year, We’re still all trying many years later 2)Make friends with the technicians, they will teach you more than any pharmacist 3)Don’t be too focussed on personal study + exam prep - learn how to be a pharmacist!— Danielle Stacey (@DL_Stacey_) June 9, 2020
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208041
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