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‘The shocking impact of COVID-19 on my pharmacy degree’

“All my placements in hospitals and the community have been cancelled”

Pharmacy summer placements have been cancelled following the COVID-19 outbreak, but there are some silver linings to the downtime, student Chau Nguyen says

On March 13, University College London (UCL) announced it was our last day of university. All the materials were to be uploaded online, the exams were to be completed remotely and the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE)  was cancelled.

As an international student from Vietnam, I was faced with the dilemma of whether to stay in the UK or return home. In the end, I booked a flight the week after. The virus was spreading fast. Only a month before, COVID-19 had been referred to as another type of flu.

Suddenly, COVID-19 was all anyone was talking about.

The university library was open for a short period, but it is now shut. Workshops and exam revision sessions were cancelled. The news came as a shock.

I am in my third year, so summer placements are essential as a preparation for the Oriel application. But all my placements in hospitals and the community have been cancelled. My friend’s summer placement at Boots was also cancelled. We’re worried not just for the unknown future of our exams, but for the upcoming Oriel applications that we don’t know how to prepare for, or when they will open.

But it isn’t all bad news. Pharmacies and hospitals are reaching out to students, asking for our help as the NHS is becoming overloaded. Since I’m already back in Vietnam, I can’t join this great opportunity to help out and gain experience, even though there is the risk of infection. However, there is a risk behind any good opportunity, isn’t there?

Another silver lining is that I have the chance to revise for examinations while at home with family, and I can enjoy the early summer before it will be the time for graduation and working life. I might hardly ever see my family then. So, although quarantine life isn’t that exciting, I need to try to enjoy it, while it lasts. The NHS is doing everything it can, as is UCL. I keep telling myself that everything will be alright, eventually.

As a student, one of my online workshops was about vaccines, in particular the one for COVID-19. Hearing that vaccines are starting to go through clinical trials and might be ready by the end of 2020 is a somewhat a nicer picture to look forward to.

So, it is COVID-cation for us students at the moment, but we are all in this together. This period has made me even more excited about my roles after graduation.

Chau Nguyen is a third year pharmacy student at University College London

13 Comments

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

I am sorry to hear of your predicament. I hope Vietnam will provide a good working life as a community pharmacist.

It is shocking how successive politicians have degraded the sector here over the last couple of decades.
It has barely coped under the COVID strain, and has an uncertain future without dramatic financial uplift. Sucking out the last vestiges of goodwill and staff ill health would bring a collapse in service.
I don't expect a dramatic change in government policy, based on what I have seen over the last several weeks, through the feedback of friends still battling on.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

It's GOT to be better in Vietnam than here' Chris. I can't imagine it being worse.

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

Honestly the youngsters of today are unbelievably narrow minded. There are people dying out there. In some cases people can't even see family. And yet there are people like this can only thing about it's 'shocking impact on the degree". Have some perspective.

Khalid Ahmed, Community pharmacist

Sorry, but your reply shows no amount of empathy, nor understanding of Miss Nguyen predicament. She is one of thousands of students who have been put in this unprecedented situation. She is merely stating facts from her personal experience.
Perhaps you too, being in Industry are really aggrieved also, so tell us?
A little empathy and a sense of "humanity," is a good trait for a person in your position... You should try it!

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

Why should I feel aggrieved? Industry is stronger than ever right now.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

What about the thirty-odd thousand people who have been put in the 'predicament' and 'unprecedented situation' of being DEAD?? Get some perspective on this. One years delay to your selected (badly in my opinion) career is small potatoes compared to the cost to the people and familes affected by this nasty little disease. I am a community pharmacist of 30 years standing. I know people who have died of this, I know their families. I know where my sympathies lie and it is not with a student whinging about the 'shocking' (laughable choice of word) effect of Covid on their degree.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I think this person should perhaps be thinking of it as a 'lucky escape' instead - see it as a chance to do something different. Their selfish attitude makes me think they aren't cut out to be a pharmacist anyway. Typical bloody snowflake.

Lee T, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Definitely a lucky escape

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Ummm......hello.......people are DYING of this thing.

Khalid Ahmed, Community pharmacist

Between 500,000 and 600,000 people die of "flu" related illnesses every year! Covid-19 is one of over 100 viruses belonging to the group known as Coronaviruses!
Every month in the UK, under so called normal conditions, 10,000 people die in Care Homes.
Yes people are dying of it. Its very sad indeed.
But, please put it in perspective.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Strangely enough, given I have the same acedemic background as you, I do know that it is a coronavirus, I also know how many people die of flu every year ( think your quoted figure is worldwide - Covid 19 is coming up to 5 million so far so I think even you can see that this is rather more serious. I'm sure you already know this, but since we seem to be talking like each other are babies, I'll tell you anyway - Covid 19 is what is known as a 'novel' coronavirus, which means NO-ONE has any immunity unlike flu which is a mutated virus to which most of the population has some degree of immunity having been exposed to a flu virus previously) However, most coronaviruses don't kill people. This one does, so an interruption to a pharmacy degree is a necessary action to take to control it. I frankly don't give a stuff about students who can easily catch up on their degree work and at most lose one year of their career. 30-odd thousand people in this country are now DEAD and there is no coming back from that. Many of them were younger people with many years of life ahead of them, so it is YOU, not me who should be putting things in perspective.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

You have my sympathy. As an international student you're already getting ripped off and now this. Consider another subject altogether unless you're thinking of practicing in your home country. I would assume it's well remunerated and respected as it once was here many years ago.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Why is this person not studying Pharmacy in Vietnam? Could it be because the schools of pharmacy are rather better over here? THATS why they pay more than home-grown students. Dead right about choosing another career though. I'm guessing you're about the same age as me, Benie, cos you can remember the halcyon days of money and respect. Seems a distant memory nowadays (probably because it is......)

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