Deciding between a career in community or hospital pharmacy can prove daunting – especially when you haven't yet left university. If you're yet to feel strongly about one or the other, a split pre-reg year might prove an ideal solution.
Pre-reg pharmacist Mosan Ashraf (pictured) tells C+D why he decided to gain experience in both settings before taking his qualifying exam. He has just finished three months at Dean and Smedley's Tutbury branch, winner of the C+D Multidisciplinary Team of the Year 2013 award, and is currently working at Queen's Hospital, Burton-upon-Trent.
What made you decide to do a split pre-reg year?
"I had worked with Dean and Smedley before and I had a nice taste of community pharmacy. I thought it would be good to get an informed decision about whether to go into hospital pharmacy or community, so I decided to do a split year between both. This was one of the few community pharmacies that offered a 50/50 programme, so it was an opportunity I really couldn't miss. "
What was the biggest benefit of working in community pharmacy?
"I couldn't single anything out because I worked with so many different people at Dean and Smedley – patients and healthcare professionals.
There, you got so many opportunities. We've had quite a diverse community – the elderly and very young – so you got to see quite a bit. We also had a care home nearby and its staff came in quite regularly, so I had an opportunity to go and visit them. Really, I'd say it's the diversity of the experience you get – I couldn't ask for more."
What are the main differences between the two placements?
"I don't think I appreciated how different hospital was to community pharmacy. There's less of a focus on day-to-day activities such as dispensing and stock levels because technicians in hospitals manage all of that. Because of the skill mix, there are lots of people to help you, whereas in community pharmacy you're a bit isolated."
Are there any skills you developed in community pharmacy that have proved useful in a hospital setting?
"I've definitely been able to transfer skills from community pharmacy. A pre-reg who just does a hospital placement may not have as much of an advantage in counselling patients and problem-solving skills, because in community pharmacy you're by yourself and need to think for yourself. I think the analytical skills you develop in hospital will be useful when I go back into community pharmacy for my final three months. You learn to clinically check things by glancing at them."
Do you have any ideas on which discipline you will go into?
"I absolutely loved community pharmacy, but hospital has also been fantastic. By the end of my two placements, I should have a fair idea."
Why should other students consider a split year?
"You can appreciate how things work on both sides. Generally we have a big problem communicating between primary and secondary care, so I think if all pre-reg years were like this, it would really help.
At the moment, there's no communication between the hospital and community pharmacy, but that's because the hospital doesn't necessarily know which pharmacy the patient is going to. I think that's something we can definitely develop with the introduction of EPS2, when the patient will nominate a pharmacy."
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