Balancing work and study on the Pharmaceutical Technology and Quality Assurance MSc

Eric Chau is an Aseptic Services Manager at a hospital pharmacy who is studying on the MSc Pharmaceutical Technology and Quality Assurance course at Manchester. Here, discusses how he’s found the course and considers how it has benefitted his career…

Since I became an Aseptic Services Manager, I have wanted to build on my knowledge of current pharmaceutical technology and develop a profound understanding of quality assurance (QA) that I can apply in the workplace.

My role involves supervising the daily operation of aseptic preparation for high-risk injectable medicines, including chemotherapy products, monoclonal antibodies (mAb), parenteral nutrition (PN) and antibiotics. I manage the pharmaceutical quality system (PQS) and QA activities to ensure the safety and quality of patient treatments, as well as ensuring the unit complies with current regulatory standards.

I wanted to be able to critically analyse evidence, data and other available sources of information to make judgements about complex issues happening in practice. I also wanted to gain a full understanding of regulatory frameworks and the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards that the pharmaceutical preparation and manufacturing units have to comply with. I hoped to reach these goals through the MSc here at Manchester.

Course highlights

Through the course, I have been given opportunities to visit different pharmaceutical organisations and quality control laboratories to write practice journals.

For example, at Quality Control North West, I learned the principles and processes of different analytical testing methods. We were divided into groups to carry out different testing following the BP specification, and then presented to other groups about what we had done and explained the theory, advantages and disadvantages for the testing being carried out.

Throughout the process, I developed effective communication and the ability to critically evaluate personal performance both as an individual and within a team. I also gained an insight into high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gas chromatography (GC) in assays that are currently used to test for product samples for pharmaceuticals in practice.

Course Challenges

I have found the most challenging aspects of the MSc to be setting priorities and effective time management. Also, as PTQA is a professional qualification, the course content can be difficult to understand. There is a lot of background and essential reading material. The course is intense with a number of assessments following each module.  Students are required to have adequate professional experience and academic ability. Students should ideally be working in technical services or QA services within pharmacy departments in order to complete many of the assignments.

Also, COVID-19 has been a stressful period for everyone. I was in the middle of my third-year research project when the pandemic struck. However, the PTQA programme manager and my project supervisor have been very helpful. They gave me a lot of support by discussing the progress of my project via email and telephone.

Applying what I’ve learned to my current role

The course has helped a lot in my current role. I am now able to apply pharmaceutical technology and quality assurance in the workplace. For example, I have recently developed a PQS system for the Aseptic Unit in my workplace.

I have also developed skills to critically analyse data and apply QRM to address issues occurring in practice. I have become more familiar with regulatory requirements and the GMP standards that the Aseptic Unit needs to comply with.

My future plans

The PTQA course has already helped me a lot in my current job. I will continue to apply what I have learnt to provide safe and good quality aseptic services.

I have also been recognised by my workplace to provide support to other sectors of the pharmacy department, such as providing training and QA advice for staff working in the repackaging unit, purchasing, and the distribution unit.

Advice to students

My advice to prospective students would be to keep on top of course assessments for each module, and don’t leave it to the last minute.

The programme manager, teaching tutors and lecture speakers are all very friendly, helpful and supportive. During the teaching week, students should take the opportunity to ask questions about the course and share experiences in practice.

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