Life as a preregistration trainee in an independent pharmacy
Published in PJ 11/06/2009
by Neil Gathani
Neil Gathani: the most important person in the preregistration year is your tutor
Have you thought about choosing an independent pharmacy to complete your preregistration training? Neil Gathani discusses his preregistration experience so far and offers some advice for those who are about to entering preregistration training
Having been given the opportunity to write about my experiences so far working as a preregistration trainee for an independent pharmacy, I have to say that the transition from being a fourth year pharmacy student to working as a preregistration trainee has, so far, been relatively painless. The company that I am working for has also made it a comfortable transition.
My pharmacy team consists of one full-time pharmacist, one head dispensary technician and one counter assistant. The lead pharmacist is from New Zealand.
Green Light Pharmacy
Green Light Pharmacy has drilled me in its ethos since my first day at work: that we must focus on the most important person, the patient. The pharmacy does not sell any cosmetics or have a photo printing machine. Instead, it has one large private consultation room, a seating area for patients and a counselling bench. The pharmacy layout is organised in a way that allows us to deliver patient care in a personal way.
Working in a small independent pharmacy means that the pharmacy team is like a second family. The most important person in the preregistration year is the tutor. Luckily, I have been blessed with an excellent one. As mentioned earlier, she is from New Zealand.
One might think that New Zealanders were solely known for their rugby. However, their talents also lie with their professionalism. My tutor has instilled in me the confidence that pharmacists can play a huge role in healthcare, not only as a healthcare professional that a patient can speak to but also as someone that other healthcare professionals can liaise with, including doctors, nurses and dentists.
It is also important to mention that, without the lead technician, daily pharmacy activities would possibly cease operation. Therefore, building an excellent team spirit and rapport is essential and should be the first thing that you do.
Within the first few weeks of starting, a training schedule was rolled out, highlighting training once a month of different aspects of my preregistration year, for example, training for the registration exam and learning about the Drug Tariff. Along with that, I was given the option to undertake any training that the local primary care trust is providing.
I believe this is where an independent pharmacy differs from larger multiples because I have a greater input in what I would like to learn more about and when I would like to undertake the learning, as long as it is agreed with my team.
I think that the best training I have done so far is smoking cessation. It has allowed me to learn how to connect with patients. There have been times when patients have failed to turn up or gave excuses for continuing to smoke. This can try your patience. However, it is important to respect the individual’s personal situation.
On the flipside, seeing patients quit smoking successfully can be wonderful. It helps me gain self confidence and also gives much needed confidence back to patients, and remind them that they have the strength and support to give up something they previously thought they were not able to do.
In the community
With an independent, it also gives you a perfect opportunity to start playing your role in the community. I am in daily contact with local residents, local businesses, other local pharmacies, GPs and even the local PCT. It is important to develop good relationships because independents can only survive with the help of these groups. It is incredibly satisfying when someone walks in the door and knows your name.
The other joys of independents is those who, like myself, enjoy the business side to pharmacy and can begin to comprehend how an independent makes money and how it survives. If you like a challenge, independent is the way to go because you can come up with your own ideas and campaigns to stay one step ahead of the competition.
It has also been a terrific experience learning about the roles each person in the pharmacy business plays. For example, wholesalers are the key source for medicines. If the medicine does not turn up, you cannot fill a prescription and there is nothing worse than telling an agitated mother that we do not have the antibiotic her child needs. Therefore, you must build up strong relationships with them. It may be a different situation with the large multiples because of the contracts with large wholesalers that they have already cemented.
With regards to the dispensing of methadone, there are many challenges, for example, you may find yourself under pressure from a methadone patient who demands that you supply his or her methadone but you cannot, because the doctor has incorrectly filled the prescription, making it illegal to dispense it.
If you do not diffuse the situation quickly, you could be risking your safety and the safety of others in the pharmacy. The importance of an excellent pharmacy manager could not be any more imperative. I can rely on her to teach me the best way of handling such situations. More than anything, it also gives me the perfect opportunity to practise my communication skills.
The 13th week preregistration trainee review comes quicker than you might want, especially if you are not on top of your evidence portfolio. And some would probably have, like me, found themselves spending an entire evening writing up the evidence, a painful process that could have been averted. My advice is to keep on top of it because even the nicest of tutors will not be amused.
Hopefully, this article has given you a brief insight into the vast amount of things I have experienced in three months. If you are a pharmacy student who, like myself, “fell” into the profession by chance, it is definitely something to look forward to.
If you are a preregistration trainee, my only advice is to make sure that if there is anything you want to do or learn, take the initiative and ask. This is the year you can make mistakes and learn from them with the support of your tutor and colleagues.
Neil Gathani was a preregistration trainee at Green Light pharmacy, London