By Osayuki Igbinoba, pharmacy student, Kingston University
I’m a 4th year pharmacy student at Kingston University, work part-time at Boots pharmacy as a pharmacy advisor and I’m also a double amputee above the knee. I use prosthetic legs and I’m also a wheelchair user. I’m a disability campaigner and recently became a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Action in Belonging, Culture and Diversity group.
Like any 4th year, I’m eager to get a Pre-Reg placement, but I’ve found the Oriel process very challenging and stressful. There was no support or guidance in place for disabled students who require disabled access in a Pre-Reg placement. The truth is that many pharmacies are simply not accessible to someone like me. Many have thought hard about ensuring the public and patients get better access in store, but seem not to have thought that teams deserve the same consideration too.
The sad truth is the vast majority of community pharmacies don’t even have disabled toilets, let alone space under the counter for me to sit down in my lab chair with my footrest if I need to. As a double amputee, I’m not able to stand all day. Dispensaries are usually small and pharmacies often quite narrow, creating problems for me if I need to use my wheelchair to get around. Some staffrooms are too tight, and one pharmacy I enquired about did not even have one.
Looking at the approved list of pharmacies for my Pre-Reg year on Oriel, my options were greatly reduced. I had to check each community pharmacy using the facilities section on the NHS website for disabled toilets. Then I sent emails to the few that seemed suitable to ask about their access, following up with phone calls to those that did not respond. One pharmacy actually told me they did not have a disabled toilet as stated on the NHS website, and would amend that. After my research, I found that none of the community pharmacies in my region were fully suitable for my needs.
I was so stressed when I couldn’t find a suitable community pharmacy placement, as that only left hospital and hospital/GP split placements. Panicking and wondering what to do, I was left thinking how limited my options would be in the profession I’ve picked and feel so passionate about.
I talked to my tutors who helped a lot. I was told that if I pass the numeracy and situational judgement test, a suitable place will be allocated to me.
My university is quite the opposite in terms of access: I’m able to fully take part in everything because accessibility for students has been thought through and incorporated into workspaces.
If we are to genuinely welcome diversity in the pharmacy workplace something needs to change.
The pharmacy profession is not inclusive for disabled students and pharmacists. There should be more awareness raised and attitudes towards access for employees with disabilities needs to improve.
I’ve overcome so many barriers to get this far. People like myself, with lived experience of disability, should be listened to, and employers must make their workplaces disability friendly.
I’m ready to learn, contribute and give my best - is having a disabled toilet too much to ask? Is enough space in the pharmacy unreasonable? And is a space under the counter to sit down if I need to, an unrealistic expectation?
UPDATE: Since Osayuki wrote this blog, she has been offered pre-registration place at Croydon University Hospital. She ranked 127th out of 2215 students – a fantastic achievement. Congratulations Osayuki!
We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group