Royal Pharmaceutical Society

My first year as a newly qualified pharmacist

By Steven Cho, Rotational Clinical Pharmacist.

Your first year as a pharmacist isn’t easy. 

I remember coming home one year ago after a busy first day as a provisionally registered pharmacist. I ranted at my housemates about having to clinically screen five discharge medications prescriptions and conduct medication histories on another eight new patients admitted that morning. To top it all off, I also had to review the 23 other patient’s drug chart on the ward...

How did my pharmacy team expect me to do this every day on my own! I even had to accuracy check for an hour in the dispensary whilst being bleeped by a foundation doctor, asking for advice about a medication I had never heard of. 

Hitting rock-bottom

To say I felt overwhelmed was an understatement during those first few months as a rotational clinical pharmacist.

As a Pre-Reg who spent only six months in the hospital (I spent the other six months in General Practice) I already felt a step behind everyone else in my year. Needless to say, I built up a tremendous amount of self-doubt during those first few months. 

I did the best I could, but worried about a million little things, which led to silly mistakes, which in turn knocked my confidence every day. And if you know the pace of a fast-moving ward you’ll know that’s a recipe for disaster. At one point, I thought I couldn’t handle it anymore and started an application for physiotherapy…

Never give up

But I didn’t finish that application. I thought back to a palliative patient who was relieved and grateful after discussing non-pharmacological methods to cope with his polymyalgia rheumatica (he was very unhappy with taking steroids to manage his condition). Or the time I spotted an antimicrobial prescribing error that, if left unresolved, could have led to a below-hip amputation due to an ongoing bone infection. 

Those moments, along with encouragement from my family and friends, kept me going to work every day, digging deep to stay on track to study for my registration exam. 

When the results came out, I was overjoyed to find out I had passed. To me, that was the final affirmation I needed to make myself realise that I could, with hard work and support, be a successful pharmacist. 

Look at me now!

Looking back to that first day I ranted to my housemates about, I could probably do all those tasks in a single morning. The key to achieving this, which I’ve learned through months of trials and tribulations, was being able to prioritise. Working on admission wards and in a busy dispensary has taught me how to differentiate between problems requiring immediate attention and those that can wait. 

And that’s not all. Developing good relationships with my colleagues has not only benefited my work-life, but also enhanced my personal life. Remember that doctor who rang about an obscure medication on my first day? Well, last week, we went spearfishing together at a local beach, where we caught some sea bass and made some delicious sashimi! 

So, remember: those of you struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel; success is often just around the corner! Dig a little deeper, hang in there for just a bit longer, and I hope you’ll find your own delicious sea bass on the end of your line!

Want to get your pharmacy career off to the best start? Membership for newly qualified pharmacists is available now for half-price all the way until February 2023!

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