Andrew Lai is a Pharmacy graduate from the University of Manchester. Originally from Malaysia, Andrew made the journey over to Manchester purely for his studies and is still yet to return. Below, Andrew reflects on his experiences in Manchester and gives us an insight into what life is like for a Pharmacy graduate in their pre-reg year…
It didn’t come as any surprise to me that I found the course challenging to begin with. The regular assessments kept me on my toes and communicating effectively with patients was something that I initially struggled with. However, I quickly improved thanks to how well structured the course was.
There was a heavy focus on communication skills and we were provided with simulated environments to practice and develop these skills. I was well supported throughout the course whilst also being encouraged to think and learn independently as opposed to being spoon-fed answers.
The hospital placement and lab sessions were also fantastic. I revelled in the opportunity to meet actual patients and learn more about their pharmaceutical care during my various hospital placements at Manchester Royal Infirmary, Salford Royal Hospital and Wythenshawe Hospital. The multidisciplinary learning sessions with the Medical, Nursing, Optometry and Midwifery students were interesting as we were able to exchange ideas about healthcare provision from the perspective of our respective healthcare groups.
As an international student from Malaysia, adapting to a new culture and environment took time but I met many amazing people along the way who taught me many things about my new home.
I truly appreciated the sheer diversity of the various communities in Manchester especially when it came to the various cuisines I was able to indulge while living in Manchester. Whilst living independently was difficult at first, it was another experience that helped me to grow as an individual.
As an international student, it was fun being able to share a little bit of Malaysian culture with everyone and I particularly enjoyed the flexibility I had to move around when it came to applying for summer placements. Geographical location was not an issue given my actual home was halfway across the world!
The pre-reg year
Pre-registration year is the 52-week training that most Pharmacy graduates undertake in order to become a registered pharmacist with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). It is basically the culmination of the four-year-long MPharm programme, providing the opportunity for Pharmacy graduates to apply the knowledge and skills they have gained throughout their degree in a work environment.
The pre-reg year ends with a national exam which, upon passing, would enable a pre-reg trainee to register as a Pharmacist with the GPhC. Pre-reg training can be undertaken at any accredited training site, usually in a hospital pharmacy or a community pharmacy. However, some pre-reg’s do undertake their pre-reg training in an industrial pharmacy setting for six months but they need to spend a minimum of six months in a patient-facing environment as well.
My pre-reg year
I am currently undertaking my pre-reg year at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. My week varies as I follow a structured rotational programme which typically sees my day split between the wards and the pharmacy department. My work includes (but not limited to) taking drug histories, reconciling medications from home with prescribed medications on the wards and clinically reviewing patients’ pharmaceutical care whilst under the supervision of the ward Pharmacist.
The rotational nature of the programme enables me to explore other less well-known areas of pharmacy such as clinical trials and logistics/medicine supply chain. It has been an exciting seven months so far as I have been able to develop the key skills that are necessary for someone wanting to become a pharmacist. I have applied these skills in a work setting which will ultimately prepare me for the pre-reg exam at the end of the 12 months. Additionally, I have developed other soft skills such as negotiation skills and learning to deal with different types of people. It is definitely a tough year but it will certainly be a satisfying one!
I intend to continue where I am working at the moment, at least for the next few years if possible. I certainly haven’t ruled out the prospect of returning home to Malaysia but I would like to spend the next few years gaining work experience in other sectors of pharmacy.
I think it is perfectly acceptable to be ambitious in whatever you intend to do but always set realistic goals to work towards. Never rule out the possibility of being able to do something, for example, a particular job or summer placement because of the fear of stiff competition or being at a disadvantage because you never know how you will fare until you give it a try.