This is a challenging time for pre-regs. Here are nine ways to help them through this period from Noma Al-Ahmad, managing director of training provider ProPharmace; and Aamer Safdar, education training and workforce development pharmacist at NHS Barts Health Trust and General Pharmaceutical Council member.
Take control of what you can control
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has made it clear that the assessment is still required for registration, and it will be rescheduled at a later date, either towards the end of 2020 or early 2021.
The possibility of a provisional register has also resulted in a lot of uncertainty. With so many questions unanswered, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking too much about what you don’t know. But one thing you can take control of is your own personal development.
What you are experiencing now as you navigate through this pandemic is a learning experience you’ll never forget. Taking advantage of this by building your self-awareness and resilience and focusing on personal and professional growth will be of huge benefit for your future career as a pharmacist who has worked on the frontline during COVID-19.
Accelerate your learning
Although the delay of the registration assessment has granted a much-needed extension to allow you to focus on what is important and to take into account the pressure you are under, the past few weeks have shown why being up to date with your learning is so important.
Key updates about COVID-19 for patient care and pharmacists professionals are being released daily. This is an opportunity to accelerate your learning so that you can be a bigger asset to your team. Think about sharing key updates with team members and how you can support others in staying informed.
Make the most of online learning
If you have had an offer of online learning extended to you, take it seriously and make the most of it. Attend as scheduled so that you can benefit from online interaction with your peers and trainers. If you are unable to attend the sessions in the allocated time, find out if you can access them later.
Refocus your revision timetable
We always encourage trainees to stick to a revision timetable. Before this pandemic you were gearing up towards the final hurdle of your pre-registration year. The impact of the outbreak and the change in the timing of the registration assessment have inevitably made it impossible for you to focus on any revision.
There is no doubt that the impact of COVID-19 will have set back your preparation, but maintaining focus on the end goal while taking into account workplace pressures is important to help you stay focused.
Make the most of a bad situation
Most trainees are having difficulty with balancing work and study, with insufficient time to prepare for the registration assessment. Hoping that things do calm down soon, think about the positive aspects of having this extended period.
Firstly, the extension as well as the opportunity to work as provisional pharmacists gives you the opportunity to be better prepared for the registration assessment. Think about what you can do during the extra time, perhaps it is an opportunity to get involved in some research or a project you have always wanted to work on.
It is likely that the provisional register will allow you to perform some tasks that you may not have been allowed to do as a pre-reg. Working as a provisional pharmacist is something to look forward to and an opportunity to develop your skills.
Protect yourself and others
As frontline professionals working under pressure, it’s easy to forget to apply the advice you are giving to patients to yourself. All pharmacists should have personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves, as it is extremely difficult to maintain social distancing in many pharmacies.
Discuss with your tutor the strategies in place to protect pharmacy staff. Consider whether you are dealing with any abusive patients. Do you have a zero-tolerance policy in place? Can you record some of the situations you’ve handled as evidence of communicating effectively and managing conflict?
Remember, if workplace pressures get too much or you feel you are working in a high-risk environment, make sure you express your concerns with your employer.
Look after yourself and others
Take care of your mental health and wellbeing, ensuring you take breaks when needed. Dealing with pressure at work, uncertainty about your pre-reg training, the assessment preparation, as well as worrying about family and friends who may be falling ill will no doubt result in anxiety building up.
It’s important to understand that you are not in this alone, everyone will be experiencing their own set of worries. It’s also important to have some strategies to make sure you’re taking care of your own mental health by, for example, speaking to a friend, your tutor or a trusted colleague about your problems.
Reaching out to a colleague who may be experiencing difficulties or volunteering to help others can make you feel better. Pharmacist Support has set up a wellbeing hub, which has tips and resources to support pharmacists during the pandemic.
You can contact them on 0808 168 2233 or [email protected].
Pre-reg trainees are key members of any pharmacy team. Nothing has made this more evident than how they have responded to the COVID-19 outbreak. The role you are playing now shows how you are relied upon as key members of the pharmacy workforce.
Keep up to date
Remember to use trusted organisations to keep informed and up to date. Key organisations include:
- the GPhC
- the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
- the Pharmacists’ Defence Association
- the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association
- the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.
Remember to ask for help if you need it and that the toughest of challenges will soon pass.
If you would like stay informed about ProPharmace online events and support with the registration assessment email [email protected].