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

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?

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