Back in Singapore for a break from pharmacy

I’m back in Singapore again. I have completed my one-year pharmacist pre-registration training on 31st July, and became a provisionally registered pharmacist in the UK on 1st August. After that, I flew home on 6th August.

Firstly, why am I only provisionally registered? It all has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In normal circumstances, all pre-reg trainees are supposed to take the registration exam in end June. Upon passing, they will become fully registered pharmacists with the GPhC (General Pharmaceutical Council) in August.

But due to the pandemic, it was announced at the end of March that the exam will be postponed to a later date, potentially as late as early 2021. As of today, there is still no confirmation on when the exam is.

Provisionally registered pharmacists in the UK have the same job scope and the same pay as a new fully registered pharmacist. You can also work solo in a retail pharmacy—meaning you can act as the Responsible Pharmacist during your shift.

The key difference is that you need to be employed directly by the company you’re working for, which means you can’t work as a locum. And that’s because you need to practise under the supervision of a senior pharmacist for as long as you’re provisionally registered. The senior pharmacist will review your development and report your progress every month.

You have until 31st July 2021 to pass the exam (whenever that is) and get yourself fully registered with the GPhC.

So, why am I back?

To put it simply, I’m stepping away from my work in community pharmacy to give my mind a break.

I’ve read the views of other pre-reg trainees on the Pharmaceutical Journal about how COVID-19 affected their training. Most, if not all, of them shared about how busy and stressful their work lives have become.

But that wasn’t the case for me. When the lockdown started, there were a few weeks of massive workload due to patients panic ordering their prescriptions. But since then, the work was definitely manageable.

To me, the biggest issue was the postponement of the exam. Community pharmacy is inferior as compared to hospital when it comes to developing the clinical knowledge and skills expected of a competent pharmacist. However, studying for the exam kept me learning, even though I hardly applied what I studied at work.

But when the exam got postponed, the focus of my training became solely on the smooth running of the pharmacy during the pandemic. Community pharmacies were informed to cast aside clinical audits and medication reviews with patients to focus on this objective.

I spent almost the entirety of my day doing the same tasks as the dispensers; that is, picking medicines from shelves, serving patients and ordering stock. The workload was not unbearable, but there was still a lot for me to do. After all, I was based in a busy and understaffed pharmacy.

The work became so repetitive that my mind just wanders off when I do my tasks. I hardly did any “mini research” at work to look up on medicines that I was unfamiliar with. Apathy set in at work, and my only motive was to do what needs to be done and go home.

Without the exam, the pre-reg training has lost its true purpose; and I’m just going to work to do unstimulating work. I know that I’ve done my part to ensure that patients still receive quality service in times of crisis, but I didn’t feel a sense of fulfillment.

All I felt was relief that the day was over, and I could go home to chill; but not to study because there was no drive. I must have reached an unprecedented level of boredom in life.

Now that I’ve gotten my provisional registration, my job in York is done. I can gladly take a break from pharmacy while waiting for news on the exam date.

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