As a University of Bradford fourth year sandwich student, I have just completed my first round of pre-registration training for six months in community pharmacy. Throughout this period, I had come to the realisation that many students or pharmacists were unaware that this type of course even existed, or why! Having gone through the experience myself, I think it is vital to fill any missing gaps in the course reviews. Therefore, I believed it would be beneficial to share my personal experiences and enlighten those who are confused about the different courses.

In simple terms, the 5-year programme consists of two different 6-month placements: one in community and one (if obtained) in hospital. The first placement starts after completing third year so that our clinical knowledge is up to date. The second placement begins at the end of our fifth year - in the final 6 months of our degree.  The University of Bradford is one of the only UK universities to offer this opportunity, thereby using the structure of this programme in the hope that it will broaden the knowledge and experience gained for students before they take their final exams.

Most fourth years who take their university exams generally complete their degree, and then begin to work. However, being a sandwich student, one of the first things you realise in practice is that you have six months to learn a years’ worth of content. Working early on teaches you to be independent, it sets the foundation for your communication skills, and you learn and gain knowledge through relationships built with your patients. You find yourself applying knowledge from recently completed third year exams, but most of all – you learn how to stand on your feet all day every day without complaining.

The sandwich course is great in terms of gaining knowledge and reducing competition, not to mention the extra money as a student! The support and knowledge that the University provides in aiding you to find a placement is also great as it means you’re not simply thrown into the deep end as a naïve third year student. However, you realise that opportunities in industry are limited as they do not currently offer six-month pre-registration placements, and in some cases working in a community pharmacy does not offer you the same consistency as you would get for those working within the one year programme.

It was clear that throughout my placement there were mixed reviews on the idea of returning to university after working for 6 months. Some thought it was great to split the two and have a break whereas others believed that it would be harder to return to full time education. Having now returned to university, I have realised that six months of hard work, early mornings and a steady routine provides a different type of mindset to how a ‘usual’ fourth year student may go about their day.

From September 2017 I will be working towards my final (5th) year – my course will be split into completing the second semester of the normal fourth year and completing my final six months in a hospital placement.  From all the lessons learnt as a sandwich student, you realise that returning to university does not mean we simply come back as students, but as trainee pharmacists and that is the biggest lesson of all.

Hina Muneer

University of Bradford

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