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Xrayser: Some poetic justice for our graduate pharmacists

"Serve – and not make services your master"

Let's salute the new crop of graduates with a poem, says Xrayser

Sometimes it feels like pharmacy students can never win. Study hard and people say you missed the personal development that comes through university. Party non-stop and you’re told you’ve wasted your time as an academic student.

And then finally, after four years of gaining an advanced knowledge of pharmaceutical science, you’re told that you know nothing about real life, and must endure a year of being tutored by some stressed-out pharmacist whose clinical knowledge is 10 years out of date and who spends all their time worrying about their sales margins and stock control.

Then there’s the registration exam. If the pass rate for your year is high, all the registered pharmacists moan that the exam is getting easier and you’re flooding the jobs market – depressing their wages in the process. If the pass rate drops and you struggle to make it through, your classmates are branded as some of the weakest students in living memory.

Maybe Rudyard Kipling had the right idea. His poem 'If' is a standard text for recital at student graduation days. So, with apologies to the poet, I’d like to offer all newly graduated students this:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing scripts and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when patients doubt you,

But make appointments for MURs too;

If you can check and not be tired by checking,

And appear clinical and smart even in a cardigan;

Or work through lunch without the need for snacking,

And not talk down to patients, nor talk in jargon:

If you can serve – and not make services your master;

If you spot errors – and not make errors your aim;

If you can counsel the slow-witted and the faster

And treat those two patients just the same;

If you can bear to hear the advice you’ve spoken

Twisted by counter staff when OTC,

Have frustration let your heart and soul be broken,

Then start again to build your pride in pharmacy:

If you can make good sense of all the guidance,

New BNF, the SCR, the PGD,

To understand the declarations of competence

And manage to pass assessments of CPPE;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To track down that missing stock when it is gone,

Admit when you make errors, and find it in you

To accept a patient’s ire meant for yesterday’s locum.

If you can speak with doctors and keep your wits about you,

Or talk with carers but not lose the common touch;

If neither inspectors nor area managers can faze you,

If all staff can befriend you, but none too much;

If you can keep your concentration to that last minute

Through a 10-hour day that still has half to run,

Yours is the profession and the respect that comes with it,

And, what is more, you’re now a pharmacist –

Well done!


Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I would argue that the stressed out pharmacist whose clinical knowledge is 10 years out of date is a little harsh. We all do our comulsory CPD now, remember and I would say that experience is the single most important factor in being a pharmacist. That's why we do the pre-reg - so the green as grass graduate can learn which bits of the univerity degree are actually of any use whatsoever. It's the pre-reg which makes the pharmacist, not the degree course. I could interpret a magnetic resonance trace when I was in the third year and tell you what a compound was - what is the use of that in a retail pharmacy???

C+D Xrayser, Community pharmacist

You are right, of course, Stephen. I apologise if you or other pharmacists - especially pre-reg tutors - take umbridge at my satirical musings!

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'm getting too old and cynical! I shouldn't take everything so literally, should I? But look on the bright side - Xrayser has spoken to me!!! I'll never wash my computer again.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I like the picture of you by the way. It looks like you have knuckle dusters on. Good idea!

janet maynard, Community pharmacist


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