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Transitioning from student to educator: preregistration training in academia

Kathryn Davison and Christine Wassef describe what preregistration training in academia involves and how it differs from the other main sectors

Confidential information

Confidential information

Trainees in academia may come across confidential information such as course work and examination marks that relate to students they may consider as friends

Hospital and community pharmacy are the traditionally thought of settings for the preregistration year. There are, however, some non-traditional placements, including a split academia-community pharmacy placement. The split placement is structured so that the trainee spends six months in community pharmacy and six months in academia. The community pharmacy placement provides the essential opportunities for patient interactions, dispensing, checking, counselling, over-the-counter advice, etc, while the academia placement adds a different dimension to the year, promising development of a different skill set, one that would be an asset regardless of the trainee’s future sector of practice.

Unique opportunity

This year the University of Sunderland was one of the first universities in the UK to offer a joint academia-community preregistration post to its pharmacy students for the first time. The concept behind the post was not to produce a new breed of academics on completion of the preregistration assessment. The post grew from the idea to allow successful candidates the opportunity to gain insight into the world of academia and the role of a teacher-practitioner, hopefully to inspire them to engage in such a role in the future.

Schools of pharmacy increasingly employ practising pharmacists to provide input and teaching into their pharmacy courses in order to offer students the benefit of first-hand current practice. It is envisaged that this will help students contextualise their learning and allow them to benefit from the tutors’ own current experiences of practice.

Do you fit the bill?

Who would be an ideal candidate to fill such a role? One of the challenges this role poses is the shortened time the trainee will have in a patient-facing environment. So those who have had previous experience of working in a practice environment may find it easier because this would mean the trainee would already have had the opportunity to develop many of the skills that are required such as good communication skills, time management and the ability to work as part of a team.

A strong academic record is also a must. To make the transition from student to educator successfully, the trainee should have credentials that other students will respect. This is indeed one of the challenges that the role brings. Academic trainees must manage the difficult transition from a member of the student body to a position of great responsibility towards that student body. They may come across confidential information such as course work and examination marks that relate to students they may consider as friends.  

As with other sectors, trainees need to stay up to date with the latest practice guidelines, legislation and practice changes. Having a deep understanding of the material being taught is essential. This, however, is not as easy as it may sound for a trainee with little experience. Each day there are different topics to teach, skills to fine-tune, and potential student-related challenges to overcome.

Trainees need to prepare for their days by reading and understanding the teaching plan, then supplementing it with other knowledge sources, such as relevant National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines, latest Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency alerts, recent trial data, etc.

It is also important to appreciate that students have different learning styles and comprehension capacities so trainees need to adjust their teaching methods accordingly. Trainees will help develop and update teaching material. They will also shadow, co-conduct and, hopefully, lead seminars, as well as be involved in research endeavours within the university, if opportunities arise. It is a myth that trainees will be expected to lead a class alone as they start the post. The hope, however, is to be able to achieve this (with support) towards the end of the academic placement.

Meeting performance standards

Many of the unit A and B performance standards can be demonstrated through an academic placement. It is a chance not only to enhance one’s clinical knowledge but also communication skills. Many of the soft skills, such as time management and organisation, play a pivotal role in fulfilling the performance standards, and this placement offers endless opportunities to exhibit these.
The academic role requires a trainee who can take initiative, be proactive and respect diversity. It is a steep learning curve to transition from student to pharmacist, let alone a pharmacist in academia.

However, the preregistration tutor will provide a lot of support and guidance as will other academic staff, making the workload appear less daunting. Without doubt, the skills developed in this type of preregistration training post are not only advantageous for pharmacy practice, but are also transferable as life skills.

Kathryn Davison is a preregistration tutor and Christine Wassef is a preregistration trainee

Back to “The preregistration journey” series   

Citation: Tomorrow's Pharmacist URI: 11130262

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