Posted by: Sultan Khan6 AUG 2014
So I started my summer work experience in an independent pharmacy, I’m over a month into it and I would like to share one key fact that students forget to take into consideration. With the current saturation in number of pharmacy students, (around 3800 including both home and international students) competition is rife and has enabled various fields of pharmacy to employ students into unpaid work experience positions (with few exceptions). This is great for the employer but not great for the student who often needs to be able to take on the costs of travel and food. I have heard the term “we are paying you in experience” thrown around on plenty of occasions and I believe this can be true but unfortunately adequate experience may not be provided for many students.
I have often found that the majority of my peers have been left to do the unwanted jobs of replenishing stock. Now go back to the phrase I mentioned above and think to yourself, is that experience worthwhile? Will it make you a stand out candidate when required to answer in-depth questions during your interviews further on in your career?
No, it won’t. For this reason I have a couple of tips to relay having spoken to a few experience community pharmacists.
1) Your aim should be to find a pharmacy that is busy — typically pharmacies next door to a GP or a polyclinic. Your future career could often lead you into high workloads and a stressful environment. Finding out whether or not you would be suited to pressure-filled environments early on will be of great benefit or at the very least enable you to begin adapting to the pressures to come. This will most likely be the case as more and more responsibility is passed on to community pharmacies, such as vaccinations.
2) Make sure you get the most out of the experience and try and find an establishment that will be willing to put the time in to teach you about aspects of community pharmacy. After all, putting in the time to teach you will be beneficial for employer and employee. The more you pick up the more helpful you will be and apart from attaining a sparkling reference you may also be able to pick up a possible pre-reg position. (Seems obvious but plenty of summer students seem to prefer to remain idle until they are told what to do)
3) The pharmacy you choose to work in should run as many services of the available services at community pharmacies as possible as this will once again broaden your insight into community pharmacy. The services would generally include: smoking cessation, blood pressure and heart rhythm monitoring, EHC (emergency hormonal contraception), and MAS (minor ailment schemes).
4) Finally, networking is a key aspect which is often ignored. During your placement you want to ensure the pharmacist in charge/ owner (even better) is aware of your competence and you can build bonds that may serve in your favour during your time as a pharmacist, regardless of the field you choose. A personal mentor who is always willing to provide you with accurate advice will never go a miss.