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Insight: Our new pre-reg is restoring my faith in the future

By Alexander Humphries*

With all of the doom and the gloom that is currently enveloping community pharmacy, I would like to share with you an uplifting tale of hope for tomorrow and better days ahead...

For the first time in years we have been able to successfully recruit a pre-reg pharmacist (sorry, trainee pharmacist, horrible term). I had forgotten how much I enjoyed having recent graduates around, with their blend of fresh-faced enthusiasm and mixed bag of prior experiences.

With so much negative publicity around community pharmacy at the moment you could forgive pharmacy students for giving the sector a wide berth, especially with sexier roles in PCN-land and hospital potentially appealing to those who have been fed a diet of clinical, clinical, clinical by their universities, often at the expense of the ‘care’ part of healthcare.

We managed to recruit from outside the Oriel system, which has been a godsend because every time we have gone through that awful process we have been met with late withdrawals from students with no geographical tie to the area.

While the system might work for someone behind a desk at Health Education England, it isn’t helping to create a sustainable pipeline of new pharmacists in areas where there are clear shortages.

Even if you can get someone who has never set foot in, say, Cumbria to commit to their training year, the chances of them staying on post- registration are slim.

But this year we’ve struck gold with an excellent trainee. Two months in and Urvashi has already exceeded expectations.

Right attitude

We got off to a good start with Uri making some good interventions including a potential early diagnosis of sepsis. Most of all I have been impressed with her attitude towards community pharmacy.

She has come with a positive frame of mind and looks for opportunities to make a difference to patients, which is really paying off. Already she is getting to know the regulars and we are getting great feedback from the people she comes into contact with.

It might help that she has had largely positive experiences in community pharmacy as an undergraduate with a great pharmacist nearby. She has also seen what bad looks like as a relief dispenser with one of the pharmacy chains.

That contrast is important because it allows students to see the sort of pharmacist they want to be and, just as important, what they don’t want to be.

I feel a duty to make sure Uri has the best year we can possibly give her and I hope we are doing everything that we should be doing. However, introducing the biggest shake-up in pre- registration training in probably two decades, in the middle of a pandemic, with a very short lead time, was never going to be a good idea...

Leadership role

We recently had our entire team trained to be able to administer vaccines under the national protocols for both flu and Covid. I am amazed that vaccination training isn’t a core part of the undergraduate training syllabus (after all, what use would that be in the middle of a pandemic?).

It was a great experience for Uri, feeling part of a team, having a leadership role as she helped some of the unregistered staff to complete their e-learning and, on the day, helping them to overcome their fears and anxieties. I’ve had the pleasure of supporting her during her first few vaccinations, and she has gone from nervous but excited to confident and competent in the space of hours.

Making a difference to patients and providing a vital public service is something that I hope will never leave her, no matter where her exceptional career takes her.

*Alexander Humphries is the pen name of a practising community pharmacist. The views in this article are not necessarily those of Pharmacy Magazine. What is your experience of mentoring a trainee pharmacist? Email pm@1530.com



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