In October 2018, I created a telegram support group after reading consistently for 2-3 years that more than 30% of black African preregistration pharmacists fail the July GPhC Preregistration exam results (Figure 1). This equates to more than 70 black pre regs each year. Feeling helpless and dispirited; I spent two years simply moaning because as a parent and a former student I could empathise with the anguished pre-regs and their families who have their dreams and hopes cut short. I wanted to help but just did not know how to start. Then Osenadia (Os), sent me a message to ask if I could mentor him and a couple of friends. This was the final push I needed. Although I didn’t have all the answers, I knew I had to start somehow.
So I set up the telegram group and asked Os to invite his friends and others who might be interested into the group. I asked the founding members what the group should be called, and they chose African & Caribbean Preregistration Pharmacy Network (ACPN). By the July 2019 exam we had more than 80 members consisting of current pre-reg pharmacists, recently qualified pharmacists and final year pharmacy students. The newly qualified pharmacists, especially Ora Ibanibo, were an integral part of the group. Being newly qualified; they provided a vivid and fresh perspective that resonated with our pre-regs. They took matters into their own hands and volunteered to run weekly revision sessions on Telegram. This year I am delighted to have the support of Os now qualified and Omotola. Upon receiving her results, Omotola sent me a direct message; her message was raw, honest and demystified key aspects of the pre-reg journey I felt compelled to share it (with permission) with the new pre-regs. I also invited Os to share his journey, and in the final part of this article I share the key challenges and lesson learnt from some members of the ACPN network.
If you are a black preregistration pharmacist or final year pharmacy student and want to join the informal but supportive network – register your interest via this link.
Below are messages from Omotola Ogunnigbo and Osenadia Joseph-Ebare that talk honestly and openly about their pre-registration years.
It is with excitement that I write you this note having just passed my Preregistration exam and I feel it is of the essence to share my pre reg journey from the perspective of an overseas pharmacist. Thank you for creating a group to support black African and Caribbean Pre regs, I joined the group in May but was rather quiet since I joined late and most things had already been said. I graduated from Nigeria about 7 years ago and I am married with a 22-month-old child.
One thing I noticed is that many students take the pre reg year with a “pinch of salt” and try to acclimatise for the first few months without realising the time starts ticking from the onset. For me, I knew it was a battle from the start and attacked it like that. Please tell the new trainees, ‘don’t postpone your reading, start from the first day of pre reg’ this was my approach as I had a lot to catch up on! Let no day pass without you doing something. They say little drops make a mighty ocean. I made a lot of friends as the year went on, most people said they would start reading in March. Oh, I dared not! I knew my weak point was calculations and started practising that even before the pre reg year began, thanks to good counsel.
Getting your study time is equally important, I asked my tutor on the first day and he allotted my study hours according to the company’s policy. Those hours did add up at the end to be honest. Worthy of note also is the fact that you cannot do it alone. Even the very best of students cannot afford to be a loner for this exam. I did my OSPAP whilst pregnant so I could not start my pre-registration immediately as I took maternity leave for a year, the consequence of this was I lost all my OSPAP reading mates and had no one to study with. I went on Facebook to look for pre regs I could study with and was grateful to find some. Having someone to study with helps information flow, there are some things that are common knowledge to others but new to you. During study discussions, such knowledge transfers are faster and stick quickly! Another advantage of this is the support system.
Even though my family and friends knew I was preparing for a major exam and all they could do was to encourage and cheer me on, truth is they were ‘not in my shoes’ and couldn’t truly feel the pain and stress. By contrast, a fellow pre-reg can relate with the struggles of the year; juggling work, tiredness, gathering evidences/competencies and still having to study. Knowing you are not alone in your struggles helps you emotionally and gives the inner push that yes you can do it!
More than anything, nothing can take the place of unrelenting hard work and determination. You are your best motivator, believe in yourself and put in the effort. It sure will be worth it in the end!
Getting through the year was tough, but nobody told me it would be easy. Collectively, as Pre-Registration Pharmacists, the main issue was working full-time and studying full-time too. On the most part, in the first four months of work, the routine was simple. Get to work on time, work, go home, sleep, repeat. If you’re a Pre-Registration Pharmacist, and what I’ve described sounds pretty much like you, then relax, because you’re not alone. The energy to work and study will come. Me starting the Pre-Registration year in community pharmacy presented an inherent problem: “How do I prevent myself from being an extra pair of hands?” and “How do I ensure I learn all the clinical things I need to know?”. Compared to my hospital counterparts, life seemed somewhat easier. They get to work, aren’t treated as extra hands, plus have group study sessions with other peers, who were going through similar experiences. It almost looked like they were living the dream. Looking back, as a newly qualified Pharmacist, I now see that this wasn’t entirely the case. I managed to overcome my concerns through learning on the job, as everyone obviously encourages you to do. In addition, you’ll be surprised as to how much OTC and community-based questions will appear in the GPhC exam! Yes, in many ways, I was an extra pair of hands, but the key thing to remember is that this isn’t forever. Yes, you may find yourself doing roles that don’t interest you, but when you’re a pharmacist, you call the shots! Across the year, I had three unexpected changes in tutors, and while that swayed me, I got through it. As they say, when life gives you ‘lemons’ you can always make ‘lemonade’. I took the best pieces of wisdom from all pharmacists to become what I am now, and so can you. Take on board the best advice from people around you, and while many of you are already a ‘Master’ of Pharmacy, this is the year you pull it all together.
As I mentioned earlier, as part of feedback collated on ACPN 2018/19, here are what 21 members stated was their biggest challenge and what they would change about their pre reg year:
The biggest challenges (as a word cloud – figure 2); as you will notice, juggling work and study was highlighted by majority of the respondents, so it is important to consider what strategies you can put in place as part of your preregistration year.
Juggling work and study was the most common theme.
And for the question what they would change about your pre reg year:
About the authors:
Omotola Obadina Ogunnigbo is a newly qualified UK pharmacist. She originally trained in Nigeria, and completed her OSPAP at the University of Brighton. She successfully completed her pre-registration year and exams with an independent pharmacy whilst juggling working, married life, and caring for her young child. She is highly motivated and looking forward to spurring Pre regs into achieving the very best out of their training.
Osenadia Joseph-Ebare is a newly qualified pharmacist. He studied pharmacy at King's College London and did his pre-registration in a community pharmacy in London UK. He is a past executive member of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association.
Dr Diane Ashiru-Oredope is an experienced public and global health pharmacist. She founded the African and Caribbean Preregistration Pharmacists network (ACPN) to support pre-registration pharmacists in September 2018.
Acknowledgements: our thanks to Noel Kizere and Kweku Bimpong current preregistration pharmacists and ACPN members who kindly reviewed and commented on this article.