What a pharmacist preregistration placement in academia has to offer

This piece is abridged from an article by Kathryn Davison, a preregistration tutor, and Christine Wassef, a preregistration trainee, first published in Tomorrow’s Pharmacist (December 2013). For the full article, visit here.


Last year the University of Sunderland was one of the first universities in the UK to offer a joint academia-community preregistration post to its pharmacy students.

The concept behind the post was not to produce a new breed of academics on completion of the preregistration assessment, but to allow candidates the opportunity to gain some insight into the world of academia and the role of a teacher-practitioner — and, hopefully, to inspire them to engage in such a role in the future.

Schools of pharmacy increasingly employ practising pharmacists to provide input and teaching into their pharmacy courses to offer students the benefit of first-hand current practice. It is envisaged that this will help students contextualise their learning and allow them to benefit from the tutors’ own current experiences of practice.

How does it work?

Split academia placements are structured so that trainees spend six months in community pharmacy and six months in academia.

The community pharmacy placement provides the essential opportunities for patient interactions, dispensing, checking, counselling, over-the-counter advice, etc, while the academia placement adds a different dimension to the year, promising the development of a different skill set — one that would be an asset regardless of a trainee’s future sector of practice.

The ideal candidate

The academic role requires a trainee who can take initiative, be proactive and respect diversity. It is a steep learning curve to move frombeing a student to pharmacist, let alone to a pharmacist in academia.

So, who would be an ideal candidate to fill such a role? Trainees who have had previous experience of working in a practice environment may be better suited to a split placement in academia, because they would already have had an opportunity to develop many of the skills that are required for patient-facing roles, such as good communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

A strong academic record is also a must. To make the transition from student to educator successfully, the trainee should have credentials that other students will respect.

Academic trainees must also be able to manage the transition from a member of the student body to a position with responsibility towards that student body.

What is involved?

As in other sectors, trainees need to stay up to date with the latest practice guidelines, legislation and practice changes. Having a deep understanding of the material being taught is essential.

This, however, is not as easy as it may sound for a trainee with little experience. Each day there are different topics to teach, skills to fine-tune, and potential student-related challenges to overcome.

Trainees need to prepare by reading and understanding the teaching plan, then supplementing it with other knowledge sources, such as relevant National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines, latest Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency alerts and recent trial data.

Trainees will help develop and update teaching material. They will also shadow, co-conduct and, eventually, lead seminars, as well as be involved in research endeavours within the university, if opportunities arise.

It is a myth that trainees will be expected to lead a class alone as they start the post. The hope, however, is that they will be able to achieve this (with support) towards the end of the academic placement.

What are the benefits?

Preregistration training places in academia are a chance not only to enhance clinical knowledge but also personal effectiveness and interpersonal skills. Many of the performance standards in units A and B of the preregistration programme can be demonstrated through an academic placement.

Many of the soft skills, such as time management and organisation, play a pivotal role in fulfilling the performance standards, and this placement offers many opportunities to exhibit these.

Throughout the placement, a preregistration tutor will provide support and guidance, as will other academic staff, making the workload appear less daunting. The skills developed in this type of preregistration training post are not only advantageous for pharmacy practice, but are also transferable life skills. Such a post offers a suitable alternative to more traditional placements.

This piece is abridged from an article by Kathryn Davison, a preregistration tutor, and Christine Wassef, a preregistration trainee, first published in Tomorrow’s Pharmacist (December 2013).

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