Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Impact of the differential attainment gap on Black pharmacy students

By Christine Adeshugba, Dorothy Egede, Oluwabunmi Ogunnubi, Omotola Ogunnigbo, Whitney Uwadiae, Diane Ashiru-Oredope (ACPN Leaders, Members, and Alumni 2018-2023)

ACPN Leaders, Members, and Alumni 2018-2023From 2013, it had been reported that approximately 30% of black African pre-registration pharmacists (now called Foundation Trainees) failed their GPhC pre-registration exam, equating to more than 70 black pre-regs per year.

The African and Caribbean Preregistration Pharmacy Network (ACPN) was established in 2018 as an informal support group in response to the General Pharmaceutical Council's (GPhC) 2016 research and report and since then, the ACPN has supported over 350 trainee pharmacists through a network of 19 leaders (with all except the founder early career pharmacists).

Becoming a qualified pharmacist is a challenging yet rewarding journey for students. However, the presence of a differential attainment gap has created an uneven playing field, affecting the experiences of black trainee pharmacists.

Examples of challenges  that trainees have reported facing include:

  • The silent struggle: students have reported grappling silently with imposter syndrome, feeling as though they don't belong or are not as capable as their peers, impacting their mental health. Some supervisors exacerbate the issue, and a lack of guidelines for minimum requirements allows biases to affect relationships at work.
  • Racial bias: A survey of ACPN members 2018-2021 revealed almost 40%  had experienced racial bias during their training year. This bias leads to reduced access to support, increased stress, and poor work-life balance.
  • Overseas qualified (mature students): Overseas-qualified pharmacists often face prejudice, eroding their confidence and creating tense work environments. Active training and vetting of trainee tutors are essential for pre-registration placement providers.
  • Re-sitting the GPhC exam: The attainment gap forces many black trainee pharmacists to resit the GPhC exam, increasing stress levels. Failed attempts can result in depression and reduced motivation, affecting overall health and well-being.

As we reflect on the impact of the differential attainment gap, we acknowledge that several colleagues and organisations have taken increased steps to support trainee pharmacists, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the lowest differential attainment gap.

Continued support is crucial to foster an inclusive environment. By dismantling systemic barriers, providing resources, decolonizing curricula, and ensuring equal opportunities, we uplift individuals and strengthen the entire profession.

Through the provision of mentorship circles, weekly clinical quizzes, wellbeing coaches, and troubleshooting facilities (from ACPN and others), we have seen an overall positive experience from our members.

Let's stand united, advocating for change, and ensuring no aspiring pharmacist is left behind (#NoOneLeftBehind). The time for transformation is now, by closing the attainment gap, we pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future for all pharmacy students and trainees. 

You can contact the ACPN via [email protected]

If you’re interested in hearing more about the differential awarding and attainment gaps, the ACPN will be developing a series of blogs for our site based on their lived experiences. Check back to our blog page soon to find out more.

See the findings of RPS Differential Attainment Gap Report.

Read more RPS blogs


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