Royal Pharmaceutical Society

A light at the end of the tunnel

by Aaron Paul, MPharm Student, RPS Intern

Being a Pharmacy student is already not easy. Alongside our OSCE’s, calculation tests and end of year exams we are also balancing our personal life, which at times can be difficult to do. Over the past few months COVID-19 has no doubt had an impact on all of us and the government is constantly telling us what our lives are going to look like during this pandemic. In this blog I wanted to explore the reality for pharmacy students at different stages of their education (including a pharmacist doing a PhD) and an insight into the life of a hospital/ media pharmacist. I reached out to colleagues and got some amazing responses. I hope to convey the message that you are not alone and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.


MPharm and Pre-registration experience

“As an international student studying in London, I was quite worried about my family back in Korea as the country had a huge amount of coronavirus cases. I wanted to get back to my family as soon as I could but was unable to due to uncertainty of what was happening with my end of year assessments. Eventually I was able to return home and spend more time with my family than I have in a long while”- Kwanyoung Joo (2nd year MPharm)

“One of the biggest impacts on the Oriel process was eliminating the MMI component, which means a vital skill of a future healthcare professional won’t be considered since only situational judgement and calculations will be tested. This change has put those who are great at communication at a disadvantage as these skills can’t be displayed throughout the process. However, there will be a greater emphasis on the skills demonstrated by the SJT, such as prioritisation, ensuring competition remains” - Abdul Gafore (3rd year MPharm)

“Balancing my studies with being treasurer of our pharmacy society was already a challenging experience. As I required the use of labs for my dissertation, I was unsure of what was going to happen to my research project once uni was shut down. Although I didn’t get a graduation ceremony or my pharmacy ball, this pandemic has reinforced the idea that as a future pharmacist the public’s health and safety should be at the forefront” - Adelaid Cela (4th year MPharm)

“My pre-registration year has been a once in a lifetime experience. Education and development took a back seat as services were understandably directed towards the essential. My tutor and I had to find creative ways to ensure I met the standards competently. I was disappointed when the exam was postponed, I was looking forward to (hopefully!) be joining the professional register. Although one thing is for certain, my future children will not hear the end of me working for the NHS during a global pandemic.”- Jonny Blatchford (Provisional pharmacist)


Pharmacist experience

“Without a doubt Covid-19 has had a monumental impact on PhD students, with many researcher projects currently on hiatus either to maintain infection control measures (e.g. avoiding face-to-face recruitment with patients) or due to a lockdown on facilities (research labs/offices). As a researcher who is also a qualified healthcare professional, I feel fortunate to have insight around why the current measures, which in some ways are an obstacle to research, have been put in place. In lieu of time not spent on my PhD I have taken up additional clinical duties at a private hospital as a locum. I think our message as a profession for students and pre-reg alike should be that despite the uncertainty of the future situation, it is important to remember the vast array of skills you develop prior to registration. Your training and experiences will make you a vital an adaptable member of the patient care team, so it’s important that we recognise our worth as clinicians and tackle challenges such as Covid-19 head-on to demonstrate how well we manage under pressure.” – Joshua Wells (Pharmacist/ PhD student)

“As a junior hospital pharmacist, experiencing a pandemic at this early stage of my career was a challenge. Rotations changed, standard operating procedures changed, some of the senior pharmacists went to the Nightingale, ward cover expectations changed and I didn't know if I could do a good job without the same support I was accustomed to pre-pandemic. However, it was truly awe-inspiring to see how quickly the entire department adjusted to cope with the change. Everyone came together to support one another immediately without question. I feared diving into the deep end, but I should not have; we all jumped in together. I must say though, I would like to use this opportunity to give thanks and bring to light the incredible work of the pharmacy technicians, dispensers, pre-registration pharmacists and other members of the pharmacy department (who are not pharmacists) who may not have had the spotlight they deserve. Pharmacists did great work in the pandemic, but it would not have been possible without the team supporting them.”- Regina lee (Hospital/ Media Pharmacist (Koregina))

As you can see from above, our pharmacy colleagues have been affected in different ways. I myself have had my own challenges, having to balance my preparation for my rescheduled exams with my internship at the RPS and my weekend role as a dispenser. This experience has inspired me to write this blog with the hope that you as a reader will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone in these unprecedented times and like many of the mentioned above you will also find light at the end of the tunnel.


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