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COVID-19: Students advised to start pharmacy roles after exams

Prospective employers must clarify whether positions are paid or unpaid
Prospective employers must clarify whether positions are paid or unpaid

Undergraduate pharmacy students wishing to work for a pharmacy during the pandemic should start their roles after completing their final assessments, industry bodies have said.

Working in a community pharmacy will not “normally be recognised as a reason for extenuating or mitigating circumstances” if students fail to “undertake, complete or attain the necessary standard in university assessments”, pharmacy education bosses said yesterday (April 14).

A joint statement from the Pharmacy Schools Council (PhSC), the Statutory Education Bodies for England, Scotland and Wales, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association recomended that the “ideal time” for MPharm students, to start working or volunteering is after they have completed their assessments, which “typically fall in May or June 2020”.

However, they suggested that final year MPharm students may start their pre-registration training “ahead of their scheduled start date” if they and their tutor agree.

It comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen pharmacy teams hit with high workloads and caused both 2020 pre-registration assessments to be postponed.

Paid or unpaid

Prospective employers should make clear to pharmacy students if the roles they offer are paid or unpaid, according to the joint guidance.

“Where paid, appropriate pay should be made by the employing organisation based on the responsibilities the student undertakes. Students should be entitled to at least the national minimum wage,” the bodies said.

Monitoring wellbeing

Both employers and pharmacy schools should monitor students’ wellbeing while they are working in a community setting, the education bodies said.

Schools of pharmacy could offer support through “a regular phone call or virtual meeting, or an offer of a point of contact for the student if needed,” according to the guidance.

The employing or host organisation should also “consider how they can regularly monitor and support students’ physical and mental wellbeing whilst working in challenging circumstance and unfamiliar environments”.

Completing assessments

PhSC said it is working with the General Pharmaceutical Council “to design and approve alternative end of year assessments, or to defer certain assessments”.

The bodies are looking at “distance assessments and completed coursework assessments” to allow students to progress through their degree.

These will allow final year students “to graduate and begin their pre-registration training in summer 2020”, guaranteeing that “the future supply of the pharmacy workforce will not be compromised”.

What do you make of the joint statement?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Can I be the first to advise students to not start pharmacy roles at all but to do something enjoyable instead?

Conor M, Community pharmacist

I'll second that!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

If your job title is what you actually do, Lee, take some advice from an old-timer (30 years experience, the last fifteen or so bad) and do something different to retail pharmacy. If you can get into industry, brilliant, but whatever you do, do not touch the dead duck that is retail pharmacy with a bargepole. The changes for the worse that have happened already during my career are as nothing compared to the ones to come. There will be NO pharmacy sector in another thirty years so please please please look very hard into the future you want. Don't make the mistakes that I and so many of my peers made of thinking pharmacy was a job for life. It isn't and what enjoyment there was (and I know people think I am a terrible cynic, but I used to love pharmacy) has long since died.

Conor M, Community pharmacist

Thanks for the advice, I have been apathetic towards pharmacy since my 3rd year of MPharm. Currently just showing up for the last few months of my pre-reg, then I'l take a shot at the exam whenever that will take place. I have no plans to remain in community pharmacy it's been clear for some time to me that it's all going to hell. I certainly hate my job and don't intend to spend my life in misery!

I have met about 15 pharmacists so far and none of them actually enjoy their job, many are trying to get out :p

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

Industry is brilliant but the competition is so high. Pharma is fully aware of most pharmacists in community and general practice are desperate to leave as those roles becomes stressful, saturated and poorly paid. Hospital Pharm who are specialists have a good chance of getting in though. Best to start as a student or very junior role. You can't simply go from a community or GP pharmacist to becoming a Medical Advisor. It's impossible.

I'm glad and feel very lucky that I moved a few years back. Medical Affairs is fantastic.

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