Nahim Khan, Senior Lecturer at the University of Chester and a Clinical pharmacist, spoke to us about his experiences in summer placements, and how they taught him the necessary skills to be a pharmacist that the classroom couldn’t provide.
Summer placements can be an invaluable opportunity gaining experience in pharmacy. It can also help you decide on which sector you would like to choose for your pre-registration year. My first summer placement was working in a community pharmacy, which was my first time working in a pharmacy environment, and it helped me consolidate what I learned at university. Starting my second year, I was a lot more energised and confident; my grades reflected this as they improved.
Companies and NHS Trusts usually advertise posts within notice boards at the school of pharmacy or an email is sent out with available opportunities. Alternatively, you may wish to contact organisations directly. In this case, find out the person who you need to speak to is, to understand the application processes and deadlines.
You may wish to get some help from the University’s careers advice facilities or seek the advice of a pharmacist teacher-practitioner at your school of pharmacy.
The main two summer placements you will find is community pharmacy and a general hospital. At a hospital you can gain an insight into several specialties, usually all under one roof. A placement in community pharmacy will usually involve dispensary working, helping on the healthcare counter and shadowing the pharmacist with Medicines Use Reviews. In my first summer placement, I completed the healthcare assistants’ course, which helped me tremendously in university modules on responding to minor ailments.
It is worth also looking at other specialties and sectors. There are a number of mental health Trusts you may contact; you can gain a lot of clinical skills and knowledge and find out what it is like working at ward and dispensary level. Industry placements are available but rare; however you may gain some insight into manufacturing from a hospital aseptic/production unit or specials and homecare companies.You may wish to ask at your University if there is any teaching or research opportunities during the summer or you may wish to contact other pharmacy-related organisations, such as leadership, professional or regulatory bodies.
Even if you don’t wish to pursue a pre-registration placement or even a career where you are doing your summer placement; make the most of your time! Ask what opportunities are available when you’re on the summer placement for you to gain an insight or experience. Ask for advice from pre-registration pharmacists and pharmacists about the application process, and managing time both at university and workings and current issues in pharmacy (a likely pre-registration pharmacist interview question).
Remember make a good impression when you’re there and appear enthusiastic. You may find that you’ll be working here in the future and don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the placement you were hoping for. I tried very hard to get a placement in hospital, and although I got to the interview stage several times, I was always unsuccessful. However, the interviews were good practice runs and helped me prepare for the pre-registration interview. Furthermore, during the interview, I was able to discuss my previous pharmacy experiences, a lot of skills are transferable and at this stage in your career, will make you stand out.