Sometime towards the end of second-year pharmacy I glanced back at the first half of my degree and found I was sorely disappointed with my involvement in the profession. I have of course attended the scheduled lectures and tutorials, I have carried my weight in group assignments and lab work, and I had even gone to the odd conference outside of university. But that was it. That was the limit of my participation. Yet I had such plans when I began this—I was going to do so much more than simply get a degree.
So, what had happened?
I think somewhere between juggling portfolios, assessments, exams and a personal life, that dream had gotten lost in the ever-popular option of “just pass the year and move on to the next”. But I could do better than that.
When third year finally began I hit the ground running; I got involved. Participating in a healthcare-based research study was first on the list, followed by some work experience at my university and more recently, becoming a BPSA representative. Most of these activities, however, took place during term time and the summer holiday loomed ahead, all three months of it completely void of plans. I knew that I wanted—or rather, needed—a pharmacy placement. But this was summer we were talking about and I also had an itch to leave England at some point, lovely as it is. Then struck the brilliance of combining these ideas together and arranging an overseas placement which, in reality, translated into hours and hours of scouring Google until I finally found what I was looking for—Work the World.
Work the World is an organisation that offers customised healthcare placements in eight different fields in over ten destinations worldwide. Whilst I was surprised that pharmacy was even available as an elective after being met with countless medical and nursing opportunities, my curiosity was really piqued by the idea of this being bespoke. Simply put, you choose your destination and the specialties you’re interested in and they tailor a placement for you. This was exactly what I wanted and after completing the necessary pre-departure tasks all that remained was to get packing.
I spent a total of three weeks in-country, two of which were in a research hospital in the busy capital, Kathmandu. The days were split between working mornings in the 24/7 dispensary whilst afternoons were dedicated to ward rounds with a senior doctor. I genuinely appreciated both aspects of my placement. Working in the dispensary enabled me to actually learn about pharmacy in Nepal—the medicines, the dispensing process, the patient interactions, the everyday life of a pharmacist. My time with the doctor, however, allowed me to observe the Nepali healthcare system on a much wider scale. Here, I gained in-depth knowledge about common medical conditions, I followed individuals from admission to discharge and I witnessed first-hand some of the challenges that health professionals and patients alike face. The final week was spent on a Village Experience which is offered as an additional option in some Work the World destinations. The village itself was located in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains and it was certainly an adventure just getting there! There was no hospital but rather a sort of small-scale healthcare centre that served the basic needs of the population, most of whom were farmers. What this week allowed me to do was see two different sides of healthcare in the same country and I really enjoyed it. But it wasn’t all work for three weeks. Bungee jumping, paragliding and a great deal of touring were some of the other activities I managed to squeeze in during my stay. Additionally, the help and support provided by the Work the World team throughout was unparalleled and went a long way in making the entire experience unforgettable.
To anyone who feels as I felt that they can perhaps do more, my general advice would be to just get involved. It doesn’t really matter if you begin this on the first day of university, in the fourth year or a decade into your career. It isn’t too late and there will always be plenty of opportunities.
Sometime toward the end of second-year pharmacy I decided I wanted to have a degree less ordinary. Looking back at all that I have accomplished so far, I think I may be on my way there.
Fourth year pharmacy student, The University of Huddersfield
If you would like some more information about Work the World, feel free to check out their website on www.worktheworld.co.uk