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How community pharmacy can fill more pre-reg placements

"Community pharmacy pre-registration trainees crave variety in their placements"

Community pharmacies can fill more pre-registration placements by sending trainees to visit GP surgeries and care homes, as Khalid Khan reveals he has done at Imaan Healthcare

At the end of this month, hundreds of community pharmacy employers will upload their pre-reg vacancies and programme details on to Oriel, the national recruitment platform.

In previous years there were an excess of vacancies. This is likely to happen again this year. Invariably, 12-month hospital placements will be more popular than 12-month community placements. We accept this as a given – it’s become the status quo. But there’s no reason why it needs to remain so.

The first thing we need to do is look at this from a completely different angle. Let’s put aside discrepancies between the sectors such as funding and undergraduate placements. A 12-month community pharmacy placement will usually involve most of the pre-reg’s time being spent in the dispensary and some time interacting with patients over the counter. There is no doubt that this format develops invaluable core skills, yet we know it’s not very appealing to most students looking for a pre-reg place.

This shouldn’t come as a great surprise and it isn’t only applicable to community pharmacy. If hospitals advertised their placements as 12 months in the dispensary, with a little bit of time on reception, I’m fairly confident they wouldn’t be as sought after as they currently are.

They certainly wouldn’t have the high fill rates they currently experience. In fact, any poor feedback sometimes received from hospital trainees tends to be when they are spending a disproportionate amount of time in the dispensary.

So, what does the hospital sector do with pharmacy placements that community pharmacy can learn from? It’s simple. They embrace their surroundings and make use of them, resulting in their trainees experiencing what they crave – variety.

In addition to some time spent in the dispensary, a hospital trainee could experience ward rounds, aseptics, haematology, neonatology, critical care, and hospice care. The trainee will also work with doctors, consultants, and nurses.

Hands-on learning

So, can community pharmacy compete with such placements? Absolutely. It’s not that difficult. Substitute the hospital corridors walked by pre-regs with the pavements around the pharmacy – trainees can visit other healthcare providers outside in the community. We must remind ourselves that we are an integral part of the primary care landscape and embrace our clinical partners and learning environments.

Pharmacists in general practice are now common, with GPs recognising our skills. Take advantage of the unique, hands-on learning experiences available in practices, think of it as a hospital-style clinical rotation.

Allow your trainees to experience genuine multi-disciplinary team working: witnessing the consultation skills of GPs, the people skills of nurses and, of course, the medicines expertise of the GP pharmacist. Pre-regs may even get to work with paramedics and physician associates, as well as trainees from other disciplines.

Likewise, send the trainee to spend time with a pharmacist at a care home to see what polypharmacy looks like and the importance of medicines optimisation. Remember, it’s not about one care setting being “better” than another. It’s about variety, challenge and stimulation.

I must admit that when I first started arranging and advertising such placements at independent chain Imaan Healthcare, I did question whether I was ‘betraying’ my sector. Was I using another specialty to augment our own?

The idea sat uncomfortably initially with me. However, after studying the hospital model and speaking to trainees, I realised this was the sensible and obvious way forward. This has resulted in a 90% fill-rate via Oriel for placements at Imaan Healthcare pharmacies, compared to the national average community fill-rate of around 45%.

The reality is, when it comes to pre-registration recruitment and training, we as a sector have been competing against the hospital sector with both hands tied behind our backs – one of those we tied ourselves by limiting trainees to the dispensary.

If anyone wants advice on these issues, contact me on [email protected].

Khalid Khan is head of training at Imaan Healthcare

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