Full circle; pharmacy student to pharmacist

Hello there! It’s coming up to one year since I took the GPhC exam, and I say this time and time again but life really did change once I qualified. A couple of months ago I found myself doing a complete 360 and I ended up going back to the pharmacy where I used to work at whilst I was studying, so here’s a little reflective piece on my experience. So here’s a little reflective piece on my journey from pharmacy student to pharmacist.

The pharmacy itself is a small-medium sized well known chain pharmacy by the coast. I initially started off as a summer placement student during my third year, and was then offered a 4 hour contract by the store manager. I was contracted to work a customer assistant; but I also helped out in the dispensary and sold OTC medication. It was brilliant exposure for me – I got to see the good and the bad sides of community pharmacy (just because you shout at me it doesn’t mean that I’m going to sell you anti-histamines for your pet). During university, I mainly used to get the train to work – which was basically a 10 minute (uphill) walk to the station, a half an hour train journey and a 5 minute walk to the pharmacy. The commute all in all, wasn’t too bad, unless the train was delayed or you happened to get stuck on a rail replacement bus that didn’t smell do nice. Friday late night socialising went out of the window, I had work the next day, and sleep is always high on the priority list for me. Nevertheless,  I did manage to make it to pharmacy ball straight after work, so that’s one thing I didn’t compromise on. Luckily for me, I was able to juggle studying full time and having a part-time job – and learnt some valuable life skills in doing so. Living away from home I had to plan in advance when I would go home to visit my family, there were plenty of times I turned up to work with a suitcase; either to make the three hour journey back home or having made the three hour journey to come to work – I was basically the suitcase kid. The staff were great too, I basically ended up being mothered by the team, (apart from the Saturday girl who was younger than me). The biggest thing I am grateful for is that they did go out of their way and teach me things and didn’t just leave me to figure it all out on my own (I have seen people do this to their staff). As I completed my degree, my time working in that pharmacy drew to an end, and the next chapter of my life as a pre-registration pharmacist began…

Since I left, I’ve always had that voice in the back of my mind that would say it would be nice to go back after I qualify. I happened to see a shift going in that store on a locum agency website, and I applied instantly. I turned up to work and a new face asked if I was the pharmacist and let me in (this happened to be the pre-reg). I knew exactly where to go, knew exactly where to put my stuff, even remembered the code to unlock the door – it was like I had never left. Walking into the dispensary I was greeted with new faces; not a single one I recognised from before, but plenty of prescriptions to keep me going. I was very lucky that I bumped into a colleague I had worked with previously – I had missed her infectious laugh! But people and their prescriptions are always waiting, so back to checking I went (managed to squeeze in a few MUR’s too). It’s very refreshing working with pre-registration students, you look at them and you see parts of yourself in them, and lots of talent too – it’s great. Lunch is a quick 15 minutes ramming some sandwiches down – not so quick when you hear a patient complaining how they’re medication isn’t ready and you decide to go out, half eaten sandwich in hand, and assure the patient you’ll check their medication right away. You have a member of staff approach you asking you for advice, your first instinct is wait what? I used to learn stuff from you… Newsflash, oh yeah I’m the pharmacist – back into action. That whole train of thought processed in a second and I managed to help advise the patient on the most suitable course of treatment according to what medication they were on. The biggest highlight was seeing the blue script patients, it was so nice seeing them! A lot of them didn’t recognise me at first, I even had one of them go to the counter and ask my colleague didn’t that girl used to be the Saturday Girl once I’d given him his medication. I much preferred working on the counter, rather than being a pharmacist whilst working in that store, I hated how my view was constantly the wall of prescriptions to check; unless I had an MUR or a query. I get much more out of patient interaction than checking prescriptions all day; although they are both important parts of the job. Before I knew it, the day had finished, and I had a two and a half hour drive to get back home. I had gone upstairs to collect my belongings and I actually had to remind myself it’s not my responsibility to cash up and put money in the safe; as I’m not an employee anymore…

To anyone out there reading this, if you do find yourself with the opportunity to work as a pharmacist in a store that’s helped mould you into the pharmacist you are today – I would highly recommend it for your own introspection; it really was an eye-opener for me. I have literally gone full circle from pharmacy student to pharmacist; and what a journey it has been! Has anyone else done the same? How were your experiences – share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Until next time,

The Pintsized Pharmacist

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