How students can stand out from the crowd with a CV and cover letter

BekkiWith an ever increasing number of pharmacy students but the same number of pharmacy jobs, competition in the sector has never been higher. What can you do to make sure you secure a role as a Pharmacist upon graduation? The key to ensuring a pre-reg position and job post-graduation is making yourself stand out from the rest; everyone will have a degree but it is the extra experience and diversity you can demonstrate that will set you apart. Read more How students can stand out from the crowd with a CV and cover letter

A look into China’s history of pharmacy and herbal medicine

A72BB1 The Great Wall Mutianyu China


In November 2016, twenty RPS members had the chance to take part in the ‘Pharmacy in China Tour 2016. Fellow of the RPS Dr Stuart Anderson FRPharmS, led the trip, he shares his two week experience.

“When I was told in September 2015 that the RPS were hoping to support a study tour to China with Jon Baines tours and asked me if I might be interested in acting as tour leader I jumped at the chance, having previously visited Shanghai and Hong Kong. After a lot of planning and promotion the two-week Pharmacy in China Tour finally took place in November 2016.

Twenty of us met up for the first time at our hotel in Beijing on Saturday afternoon. It was a delightfully mixed group; some recently and some not so recently retired pharmacists and their partners, some still with very busy careers, either just beginning and others well established, and some pharmacy students who had managed to take time out from their studies. Backgrounds too extended from community pharmacy proprietors to hospital, regulatory and industrial pharmacists. In the evening we met up with our Chinese guide, Zhong (‘John’). Read more A look into China’s history of pharmacy and herbal medicine

The role of pharmacy in mental health

CMHP-Logo-CircleWe spoke to our colleagues at the College of Mental Health Pharmacy about the vital role pharmacists play in ensuring the best patient care possible for those with mental health issues.

1 in 4 people experience mental health difficulties each year in the UK and pharmacists are an important part of looking after people’s mental health. In community pharmacies, pharmacists are often the healthcare professional who has the most contact with a person with mental health issues. Asking someone how they are and having somewhere they feel comfortable to ask for advice can be very significant. Read more The role of pharmacy in mental health

Dear exams, I will give you everything I have

Suyee Chan (002)The most common pieces of advice I’ve been given deal with stress, time management and maximising concentration, but there’s not much about optimising the way we study. As a visual learner with two years of trial and error, below are some study methods I used for MPharm exams, as well as what I plan to achieve this year.

In year 1, I was organised but studying became a bit of a chore.

Notes: Handwriting all of my notes and organising into folders.

Studying: Mostly using books, Khan Academy and youtube videos. For revision, I made posters and did past paper questions.

Tools: I organised my life, work and studies using list pads and a bullet journal. Read more Dear exams, I will give you everything I have

Providing a Travel Medicines Service

cathy-omalley-pictureBy Cathy O’Malley RGN, Dip Trav Med, MFTM RCPS (Glasg), Travel Health Specialist Nurse, Member of the Faculty of Travel Medicine Education board RCPSG

65.7 million UK residents travelled abroad in 2015; a substantial growth on previous years, with more people seeking travel health advice from community pharmacists.

So what does providing a travel medicine service entail?

A risk assessment should be performed; gathering detailed information about the trip and traveller. RCN guidance; Travel Health Nursing 2 lists questions to ask and recommends using this information to tailor advice to the individual. It is vital to use a comprehensive database for information on travel associated risks eg NaTHNaC or TRAVAX. Read more Providing a Travel Medicines Service

Faculty eight week fast track plan: Week 8 – Submit for assessment

faculty-eight-week-blogFaculty eight week fast track plan Week eight: Submit for assessment

Here we are, week eight; I cannot believe how fast the eight weeks have gone. But we have done it, both Sue and I submitted our portfolios. It’s a strange feeling, I am not sure I feel as relieved as I thought I would. I guess once the outcome of the assessment is known, then I will feel the process is complete.

I definitely recommend having a buddy as peer support was integral to making it through the eight weeks, and if you are both submitting in the same area of practice that’s even better. Through the ups and downs of the eight weeks having someone to share the rollercoaster ride definitely helped. Also, as we have both previously worked together in similar roles, we were both able to add to each other’s portfolios in terms of remembering examples of good evidence we had both led on in those roles.

My top tips would be:

  • Find a buddy!
  • Start collating your evidence as soon as possible. This was the most time consuming part for me, as I almost tried to include every example and variation of job role I had. Once I got confident in making my entries, I realised not every example was needed and that its the strongest examples that were needed.
  • Once you have all your examples, map them to as many entries as possible. Then reflect back on any gaps or duplication.
  • Quantify your entries to show impact and value i.e how many members of staff you line manage and over what timescale.
  • Make sure you leave plenty of time to proof read the portfolio, I had lots of typos and auto-corrects to amend!
  • Realise the commitment, it is time consuming and a challenging process. I dedicated a lot of hours after work and on weekends to complete this. But, I now have goals for the future career development.
  • The eight week plan gave me structure and guided me through the process. I think if I had begun my portfolio outside of the programme, I would have found excuses to delay submitting!

I hope the blogs have been insightful and helpful. Our aim when Sue and I first started this journey, was to reflect on the reality of completing the Faculty assessment and inspire others to do so.

image-150x150Sue’s thoughts
Oh my goodness it’s finally submitted. Sometimes I thought I wouldn’t get this far but I have.  Hooray!  So a summary of my top tips

1) Use the Faculty Member Handbook for writing your impact statements as it describes the requirements in a little more detail so you can use more of the descriptions in your statement

2) Use the words from the cluster – it really helps you to show you have made the impact

3) Do it in concentrated chunks as your entries improve with practise and it takes a while to get back into it each time

4) Leave a whole weekend free for the final read through and adjustment as there is a lot to go through. To ensure consistency and make sure you don’t repeat information it is better to do it in one go too.

5) Read your peer testimonials – hopefully they’ll cheer you up and motivate you!

Use your CV as it’s easy to forget what you’ve achieved in previous roles.

I hope you’ve found the blog useful and thank you for reading it!  It provided me with another entry for my portfolio too!

Start your Faculty 8 Week fast track plan today


Previous Fast Track Blog Series

Faculty eight week fast track plan: Week 7 – Update your portfolio

faculty-eight-week-blogAmareen: Week seven has been a positive week; I have finally uploaded all my entries and there are no gaps on my portfolio matrix, which is an accomplishment in itself! This has certainly given me a positive outlook going forward to the final week. When I completed my last entry for the portfolio it was extremely satisfying looking at all the work that had gone into completing the portfolio, but also reflecting back on key achievements in my pharmacy career. Having this all recorded in front of me on the e-portfolio shows how much I have progressed with education and training initiatives, but also has helped me identify what to focus on in the upcoming years.

Ironically, the cluster I left last to map was Education and Training, as that is the sole component of my current role; I almost felt I had too much evidence to map. I therefore, found it tricky to pin-point which was the strongest examples to meet the competencies.

I met with Sue to discuss our impact statements, as this is the area of concern for both of us. Would the assessor understand the context of the entries and have we actually shown the impact of the evidence, was some of our questions we had. As we both find it easier to give feedback to each other, we swapped our portfolios so that we could comment on each other’s entries. If you go to ‘my portfolio’ and then click on reports, then advanced practice portfolio transcript you can download a pdf copy of the portfolio with entries and impact statements. Sometimes there’s value in printing the document and getting out the red pen!

I also completed my REPP assessment this week. I was slightly apprehensive in the morning leading up to the scheduled time for the assessment, as I questioned whether the case studies I submitted were appropriate in showing advanced practice or would there be questions that I could not answer. I had a strange ‘butterfly in stomach feeling’ as if I was about to sit for an exam. Thankfully, the REPP assessment went really well, and it was roughly an hour long discussion over Skype. It was a really valuable experience and an opportunity to discuss education and training in further depth with a peer that has more experience than I have. I found it really rewarding and I would like to thank Laura O’Loan, Assistant Director for Vocational Programmes at Northern Ireland Centre for Pharmacy Learning and Development for conducting the assessment and positively reinforcing my key achievements thus far.


image-150x150Sue: Well this week has certainly been a busy week. One advantage I’ve found though is if you do the portfolio over a concentrated period of time you get better at it! Sadly I still haven’t got a mentor so my advice is to get this organized early on! I’m still struggling with peer testimonials but I’ve sent a final reminder and hope they’re not offended by the third one! I have enough but not from the ones I think will enhance my evidence well.

Amareen and I met this week and discussed some entries again. We were able to give each other ideas for strengthening our evidence too which is good. We also met with someone who had submitted her application who didn’t get the outcome she wanted so we had a worrying time but hope that our evidence from academia will see us through that our colleague didn’t include in hers.

I’ve now entered enough pieces of evidence so I’m fine tuning them so the entries fit nicely with the impact statements and that’s my plan for the rest of this final week. It is feeling more like I have the evidence I need but I won’t know until it is submitted! It has certainly been a chance to reflect on what has gone well in my career and perhaps where my strengths lie and thus a useful experience just based on that!

The end is in sight! What a rollercoaster journey it’s been!

Faculty eight week fast track plan- Week six: Review your evidence

faculty-eight-week-blogI mentioned in last week’s blog that my step by step approach was perhaps not as efficient as it could be, and I found that I had spent a lot of time uploading evidence to cluster one. This week, I decided to adopt a slightly different approach. I used the evidence summary with my hand-written notes and I uploaded all the entries that I had written down (but did not map them). This meant that I had around 30 entries on my portfolio. Once uploaded I felt some were duplication of the same theme/area of practice so I then removed them.

I found this helped me have a good overview of all my entries and I used the ‘View your Matrix’ tab on the portfolio as a check point for where I still had gaps. Also I used the ‘entries’ tab and then filtered by ‘unmapped entries’ to keep track on which were entries that had not been mapped versus those that had been completed. I seemed to have had a ‘light-bulb moment’ this week and my entries and impact statements are getting much easier to write. Confidence is on the up!

I also took the opportunity this week to finalise the date for my REPP assessment, which I will be completing in the upcoming week.

I have dedicated a lot of time this week to getting my portfolio entries complete, and thereby the work-life balance has been firmly set at pharmacy, pharmacy, pharmacy! However, I now feel back on track with the eight week programme and the hard work is paying off. The finishing line is in sight, and I can’t believe Sue and I are about to commence week seven.

image-150x150Sue’s thoughts
I have not had quite such a good week as work commitments have been greater with exam papers to finalise, however I do agree that the entries are flowing better. I have adopted the approach of getting everything down and then fine tuning it afterwards but having spoken to Amareen I’m taking a moment out to recheck the impact statements to make sure I’m writing sufficient evidence as it will mean less fine tuning in the end.

I am still disappointed in not getting all my testimonials in despite reminders.  Amareen pointed out the link doesn’t work in old versions of Internet Explorer which may explain why most of mine are hospital people who haven’t replied.  Retrospectively I wish I’d asked for home e-mail addresses to avoid this complication. I am not sure about the impact of not having the testimonials I consider most relevant but I now have a mentor so I will be chatting about that this week with them. I’m also looking forward to meeting with Amareen again to review our entries and hopefully re-boost my confidence!

Social Media and Pharmacists: Some Tips

As Head of Corporate Comms for the RPS, pharmacist Neal Patel spends a lot of his time communicating to and with pharmacists online. Here he gives us some of his tips to safely maximise your experience of social media as a pharmacist.

Tip 1 – Don’t hide behind a pseudonymnealpatel2

It is important to be open about your identity when using social media as a pharmacy professional. You wouldn’t send a letter without signing it, or strike up a conversation with someone without introducing yourself, so why would you tweet without letting others know who you are? Read more Social Media and Pharmacists: Some Tips

Faculty eight week fast track plan- Week five: Map your evidence

faculty-eight-week-blogAs mentioned in the previous blog, I have managed to merge week four and five by accident, and therefore I thought I may have been at a slight advantage this week. But, this week has been particularly tough with seven day service work commitments contributing to me feeling slightly ‘pharmacy-overloaded’.

I began the week with gusto, using my evidence summary to map to cluster one – expert professional practice. I felt the majority of my evidence supported the competencies and also then overlapped with others later on in the APF. Thereby, by completing one entry and summary statement, I could map it multiple times to other sections with ease. I seemed to be inputting my entries at a decent pace; but as I continued my confidence decreased, and I started questioning whether I had mapped the evidence correctly and explained the impact to the level of detail required that was sufficient for assessors to mark my portfolio on submission. At this point Sue came to my rescue when she suggested that we should try and meet up to discuss our progress in person.

Sue and I talked through one example of each other’s evidence that we had mapped to the portfolio. Although both of us are experienced in giving feedback in various forms it was apparent that we both had difficulty applying this to our own work and critiquing the entry. In both cases we both felt each other’s impact statement could be improved and strengthened by adding in specific detail. I was glad that Sue and I managed to meet up as this gave me confidence that ‘I was not alone’.

At this point in the programme I felt it was appropriate to discuss with my RPS mentor the challenges I was facing and how to overcome those. We discussed the journey through the programme so far and my concerns. It was valuable voicing them out-loud and even though it was over the phone with someone I had not met before, I found our chat to be really helpful. I explained my thought processes of how I had thought about my evidence and then mapped some roles with lots of sub sections, therefore using it as one entry with lots of competencies. But where I had led on a large project that had strong evidence, I used it as a stand-alone entry which mapped to fewer competencies. The advice from my mentor was to: “Be bold”

As pharmacists we can look at every detail and decide that our evidence may lack validity or standing, and therefore think we perhaps could only meet ‘advanced stage one’. My mentor suggested looking at the descriptors of the evidences the other way round i.e. start with Mastery and then work my way down. I found this to be really thought provoking, as my meticulous nature has meant I started mapping from cluster one and competency one and stages in ascending order.

Week five has come to an end and although I have not accomplished all that I had wanted in terms of mapping the evidence. I now feel clearer in my mind about how to input the entries. As I write the impact statement I used the descriptors from the competencies to help explain how I achieved it. I now have all my entries added to the portfolio and I will continue to map the evidences next week.

image-150x150Sue’s thoughts
I was apprehensive going into week five as I didn’t finish week four properly, and rightly so I’m afraid.  The mapping is taking me a lot more time than I thought it would.  The difficulty is in getting the right amount of information to describe the activity but leaving enough space to show the impact of my evidence. Amareen and I both wrote ours with that in mind but when we met and read each other’s we both realised that we hadn’t done it fully.  It is always difficult to write about yourself and it’s the same here.  This is where having a buddy really helps and we could have spent hours bouncing ideas off each other for each cluster but sadly we didn’t have the time.  What we have decided though is that once we have finished, we will proof read each other’s to check we have demonstrated the impact each time.

Amareen and I approached it in different ways too.  I decided to start with the research cluster as I thought this was the one I had least evidence for, so should finish it quickly and feel I was making progress! I have also decided to write most of the summaries once I have written the impact so I can see what I need to fit in.  I used aspects from my CV as I put a fair amount of detail in there which has proved useful. We’ll see how that works this week!

Some hints for this stage are to refresh yourself of some of the earlier videos available on the RPS website as it is difficult to take everything in the first time you listen and you can fast forward over the bits you don’t need. The handbook can sometimes provide a bit more direction too where it describes the clusters in the APF guidance.  I also discovered the help button on the left hand side of the e-portfolio as this clarifies some things. I discovered that minimally supports means you are an observer, supports mean you contributed and strongly supports that you led it.  It’s also very helpful with the evidence category.

I have not yet heard back about my mentor but I am saving up questions.  Having talked to Amareen about her discussion with her mentor I’ve been trying to “Be Bold” too.  It still doesn’t feel right to state that I have “mastery” of something so I’m hoping my mentor will reassure me that I can justify it occasionally at least!

I’m heading into the next week feeling a little more like I can achieve this but very aware of the amount of time needed.  Having the eight week programme is definitely a drive to keep going though, as is Amareen!