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A message to preregistration trainees in the time of COVID-19: this setback can make you stronger

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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

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Sitting the pharmacy preregistration exam is a rite of passage for every budding pharmacist and, every year, more new pharmacists join the register.

2020, however, is a year like no other. COVID-19 has turned everything on its head for those who had been preparing to sit the exam in June, which has been delayed to late 2020 or 2021.

I can’t imagine how this year’s cohort must feel right now. You have dedicated seemingly endless hours to study and made all the necessary sacrifices to become a registered pharmacist, all for your career to come to a halt. It must be difficult to remain motivated.

I can’t say that I have been in your situation; however, as a pharmacist who has had to deal with a fair share of setbacks, I can sympathise.

I recall failing my first attempt at the registration exam. I remember checking for my name online and thinking there must be some mistake when I couldn’t see it under the pass list. I was convinced that I was prepared to the best of my ability, so I was crushed when I realised I hadn’t passed. Some of you, I’m sure, can relate to this feeling. My first attempt was the September exam, so I had to wait nine months until the next sitting in June. Although our circumstances are different, you may have to wait just as long for your next exam date.

Every setback is a great opportunity to come back stronger

Whatever your situation — whether this was to be your first or final attempt — try to use this time for personal growth, if you can. Your ability to adapt to this situation will serve you well in the countless new situations you will find yourself in as a registered pharmacist.

The first thing you should remember is that every setback is a great opportunity to come back stronger. In the heat of the moment, setbacks always feel like lost opportunities, but keep an open mind. You have not failed: you have been granted several months’ extra study time.

You may trust your own preparedness for the exam, but so did I. Take the opportunity to think about the weaknesses you may have overlooked. Being a good pharmacist takes more than just academic prowess. Good pharmacists undergo continuous personal and professional development to make sure they can do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Some trainees might use their time to relax after what I’m sure has been a very stressful year. Others may become demotivated and stop studying altogether. But stick to your preparation plan: do not stop revising and do not reduce the intensity of your preparation.

Yet make sure to take the time you need to stay alert, physically and mentally — whether it’s by exercising or losing yourself in a good book.

Most importantly, don’t forget why you started your pharmacy journey in the first place. I was able to get through my difficult moments only by focusing on how badly I wanted to become a pharmacist.

This wait to sit your exam is temporary. It will pass. But remember that how you spend your time now will dictate the outcome. Don’t dwell on negative thoughts — they’re like weeds that grow without encouragement.

You will get through this. Stay focused. Stay hungry. And look after yourself and each other in these difficult times.

Stephen Sekimwanyi is a pharmacist, motivational speaker and performance coach

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