How to make the most of your community placement

So you’ve managed to secure a placement for yourself in a community pharmacy? Fantastic, well done! Whether this is your first placement or one of several, the following are some general tips you can keep in mind to help ensure you have a successful and enjoyable experience.

Be prepared

Ensure you have your own pens, a notebook, dress appropriately, know how to get there, be punctual and arrive early on the first day. Find out more about the company itself if you haven’t already. 

Make a good impression

Show that you are eager to learn, even if you don’t yet know how to do something, and try to seem approachable. Also, be sure to smile!

Think about what you want to gain from the placement

The purpose of a placement is to start applying your academic knowledge in practice. Most placement providers will be happy to help you fulfil this, whether it be to increase your knowledge of medicines or improve your “soft” skills. 

Make a note of any learning needs

Remember that notebook I mentioned? Make use of it by jotting down anything you didn’t quite understand, or want to look up later. For example, are you not sure which schedule CDs have to be kept in a locked cabinet? Write it down!

But in the same vein… 

Don't be afraid to ask questions

You may learn better by finding some things out for yourself, but in some cases it can be more helpful to hear it first-hand from someone experienced. Remember: you’re not expected to know everything. Plus, asking questions shows you’re interested and eager to learn.

Show initiative

Talk to customers, answer the phone once you’re comfortable doing so, put prescriptions on the shelves, put the split boxes away, help unpack the order etc. There’s always something to do in a pharmacy, so try to make yourself useful and show that you’re able to work independently.

Keep in mind that community pharmacy can vary a lot

From large multiples, to smaller independents, there are many different “cultures” and this can even vary branch-by-branch. This is partly dependent on the team you work with. Developing your team-working skills and being a “team player” are definitely a key part of having a successful placement. 

Keep in contact

If you’re interested in gaining further experience with the pharmacy, ask whether this is a possibility and stay in touch. Who knows; maybe you’ll end up doing your pre-reg with them!

Jessica Cooper

4th Year, University of East Anglia

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