Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Pharmacy and exams

Another reason why I'm glad I'm giving up Pharmacy to do Medicine (if I manage to pass med school that is....):


This report is flawed in many ways (the very small sample numbers, only looking at one source of advice instead of the wide range of services pharmacies offer etc.), but the results do ring true to a certain extent in my personal opinion. There are many excellent pharmacists and pharmacies out there giving an excellent service, but on several occasions I've been a customer in a pharmacy and have been given poor or no advice (when ideally I should have been given counselling considering I was a new patient taking a blood pressure lowering drug (I take it for migraine prophylaxis)), or overheard bad advice being given to other customers. I also know that I went to university with several people who I wouldn't trust to advise me on medical related matters, who are now working as pharmacists (this may be unfair and is only my opinion). Many people don't seem to respect pharmacists as much as they do other health care professionals ("glorified shop keeper"), which whilst unfair, I don't see changing significantly in the foreseeable future, especially with reports like the above.

(Note: I don't feel the same way about hospital pharmacists. Hospital pharmacists do further diplomas and training, and every hospital pharmacist I've ever known has had an excellent knowledge base and regularly prevent unsafe prescribing/make sure the best medication is prescribed to patients in hospitals).

On a different note, my second exam on Friday went better than Thursday's exam, but I still don't think that I've done enough to pass overall. I'm doing a little bit of revision everyday to prepare for resits, whilst also preparing for my OSCE exams next week. We found out the OSCE stations today which we're going to be examined on. Most of them seem ok, but there's a few I'm a bit unsure about. There's going to be one station on ECG which I presume will be to interpret an ECG but I really don't know what to expect from it. I also haven't had that much ECG practice, so I definitely need to do a lot of work for that one. There's also stations on infection control and male anatomy which I'm not too sure of what to expect and a station on mini mental state examination, which I know is quite straightforwards but we've never actually practiced it before! Luckily my boyfriend has agreed to be a practice patient all week (when he's not at work) as practicing on a real person is definitely more effective than just running through the motions by yourself.


  1. Glad you found your 2nd exam better than the 1st, good luck with OSCE preparation PSD, you've been working really hard and I hope you do well :D

  2. Hi

    Im in a position you might recognise(im doing pharmacy well im going to start this september but i want to do medicine- ive been rejected twice now once as an A2 and the again on my gap year) i decided to do pharmacy and then hopefully apply for GEM and locum on the side. I was wondering if you have any tips or could offer me any advice on how to improve or make my application stand out?

    Thanks in advance!

  3. Hi Tula. I'm sorry to hear that you were unsuccessful with Medicine at this stage. Medicine's so competitive that every year many good candidates don't get places. It may take slightly longer, but in the grand scheme of things an extra few years doing pharmacy isn't long at all, and you'll probably learn a great deal which will help you out in medicine later on.

    There's several things that I think you could do to improve your application whilst at uni. First of all, did you get any feedback from the uni's you applied to about any weaknesses in your application which you can work on? I'm sure you have plenty of great work experience already, but as many uni's like to see recent work experience I'd recommend trying to get some experience in your holidays, and possible closer to the time when you'd be applying trying to get some prolonged experience as uni's like to see experience over several months to show commitment (even if it's just a few hours each week, but over several months). Doing Pharmacy, you'll have plenty of Pharmacy experience which will be excellent to write about in your application, but try to get a range of different experiences as well. I'd recommend doing some shadowing in a hospital/GP practice to show awareness of role of dr, as well paid/volunteer work in a caring role (as a healthcare assistant, volunteering a hospice or a nursing home or helping out at a club for disabled children for example). Additionally, get involved in an extracirricular activity which interests you (there are many uni societies which you can take advantage of) to show interests outside of medicine. If you can take advantage of opportunities such as becoming a course rep or being on the committee of a society, that would also give you something good to talk about on your PS.

    Secondly, although you may be focussed on doing GEM, make sure you don't neglect Pharmacy. It's a hard degree and getting a 2.1 or above will mean that your choices aren't limited when applying for GEM. You may also find that you love Pharmacy and choose not to apply for GEM after all! You get long holidays in pharmacy so try to also do at least one pharmacy summer placement (there's lots available - community ones tend to pay you, whereas hospital placements don't!). It's good experience to talk about in a GEM PS and will help you with your pharmacy degree, and also when applying for pre-registration places (it's pretty impossible to get a hospital pre-registration place if you haven't done a hospital pharmacy placement). Whilst at uni I also did a paid research project in my last summer holiday and my work ended up getting published which looked really good on my PS. Most uni's offer some type of funding for similar things so it may be worth looking into if that's something that would interest you.

    Additionally, if you've got any time left over in your summers it might be worth working to earn some money for the GEM course. The way the fees currently work, if you do a GEM degree you have to pay approx £3700 of the fees yourself in the first year (you get student loan for living costs, and years 2-4 the NHS bursary pay the £3700 of fees not covered by student loan). If you've got that £3700 saved up before starting GEM, it makes things a lot easier.

    (carried on in next comment as I've written too much to fit in one comment....)

  4. Lastly, think about when to apply for GEM. Pharmacy is 4 years, and then it's another year if you do your pre-reg year to become fully qualified (to enable you to then locum). 5 years is quite a long time. If you're purely focussed on applying for GEM, another option is to apply for GEM in the September of the start of your third year of uni. You can leave the pharmacy course at the end of 3 years, and receive a BSC in Pharmaceutical Sciences, instead of a MPharm degree. This would knock 2 years off the time it'd take you to become a dr (and mean 2 years less of student loans), but would mean that you wouldn't qualify as a Pharmacist. This would mean that you couldn't locum to earn money whilst doing the GEM, but if you can afford it (any many people do manage to do the degree just living off student loans), it might be something to think about. It can also be a trial run/extra application chance even if you weren't seriously thinking about doing the GEM at that stage.

    Sorry for the long post! There's many more things I could tell you so if you have any other questions or you want some more information, feel free to email me on purplestudentdoctor@gmail.com :)

    Good luck with everything!

  5. Thank you so much! :)
    You are an inspiration for me!

    Your advice is extremely useful! The first time i applied during A2 I got one interview which I messed up pretty bad and then again during my gap year I got one interview which also ended badly. So i think it is a combination of my ps and then interview performance. Also I think it could be due to my UKCAT score as well! I like the idea of applying during the third year. Can I ask which uni you went to for pharmacy?

  6. Hey. That was unfortunate about your interviews. At least you were offered 2 interviews so your application can't have been too bad, so now any extra work experience and improvements to your PS over the next few years will only make you an even stronger candidate :). GEM courses tend to have higher UKCAT requirements than undergrad courses, so it might be worth doing some extra UKCAT practice closer to the time.

    I'd rather not say which uni I went to on here (anonymity and all), but if you want more info, feel free to email me :)