Hopefully you’re now back at uni and steaming through your assignments, or piling them up in the corner hoping they will disappear! Well it’s time to start thinking about what you are going to do with next summer to fill up your CV. What opportunities are available for pharmacy students?
Many of the multiples offer structured placements for pharmacy students from first year upwards, and these placements can be a great way for you to gain some invaluable experience in dispensing, counselling, over the counter medicines as well as to develop some key skills that will help you to excel as you progress through your degree. If you aren’t successful in obtaining a structured placement, you could always get a summer job within a community pharmacy, this experience is just as valuable as a structured placement and also earns you some extra cash as many placements are now unpaid. If you’re a 3rd year, many of the placements offer an opportunity for you to interview for the company’s pre-reg programme, which is a great way to secure an early pre-reg.
Most, but not all, hospitals only recruit placement students who are in the summer between 3rd and 4th year. You have to be proactive in looking for these placements as most of the time they aren’t directly advertised and it will be up to you to contact the pharmacist (usually) in charge of placements to introduce yourself and to ask how you should apply for the placement. The deadline for hospital placement applications is usually from early December until February, but this is very dependent on hospitals so don’t leave it too late to get in touch with them, you don’t want to miss any deadlines! Also, make use of your in-course placements, speak to the pharmacists you are placed with about summer placements when you are there, if you impress them during your university organised placement they are much more likely to remember your name when it comes amongst the hundreds of summer placement applications they will receive.
Both GSK and AstraZeneca offer summer placements, GSK’s placements are for all relevant science students whilst the AstraZeneca placement is pharmacy student exclusive. In my experience, these placements have an extensive application form, so be prepared to spend some time on this. If you start early enough you may even be lucky to pick up a bespoke placement within the pharmaceutical industry, such as with generics manufacturers or specials manufacturers, but to do this you have to approach them.
Most universities offer research placements for students. This is a great opportunity to get stuck into some real research, something which is becoming more important in every sector of pharmacy. Who knows, you might love this area and choose to pursue an academic career.
This area is one where you will have to go out and be persistent to get some experience in, I don’t know of any structured placements in this area, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t get one if you ask the right person!
Don’t neglect other types of placements. Have you always had a flair for writing and fancy yourself as the next editor of the PJ? Apply for general journalism summer placements. Do you love numbers and money and want to know what the finance industry is like? Why not apply for a summer placement with an investment bank? Your pharmacy degree is a great springboard for other careers alongside the traditional pharmacy roles. Even if you then decide that hospital pharmacy is really where your passion is, having some wider experience helps you to become a more rounded professional.
I’ve got three pieces of advice for applying for placements:
1. Think outside the box - if you are interested in industry but don’t manage to get a place in the pharmaceutical industry, try chemical manufacturers, university research placements or other industries. Interested in hospital but don’t manage to get a place? Community pharmacy is a different way to gain great experience as you will be speaking to patients and dealing with medicines, as is spending some time in a care home or other clinical/care settings to increase your skills in those areas.
2. Build a network and use it - attend BPSA conferences, LPFs and other events and if you speak to anyone doing a role you find really interesting, ask them if you can shadow them for a few days to see what their role entails. Also, speak to your lecturers to see if they have any contacts in an area you are interested in - don’t be afraid to try to use other people’s networks.
3. What if you don’t get the summer placement you want? - Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. Many of my fellow pre-regs in hospital didn’t get a hospital placement during summer but got a great hospital pre-reg. Don’t neglect your in-course placements, you will have picked up some excellent experience on them.
Finally, good luck on applying and don’t get too stressed about it - summer is also for having fun, relaxing after a hard year and gaining some experiences that placements can’t give you.
Pre-registration Pharmacist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and GSK