Developing the next generation of pharmacists

Laura Reed, clinical training manager at McKesson UK which includes LloydsPharmacy, talks about this year’s pre-reg exam results and how important this time is for both the people that have passed and those that missed out.

In the last few weeks I have been reminded of how it felt to be getting ready to start my pharmacy career. I remember being sat at home, waiting for my exam results to come through. It felt like the culmination of five years hard work all rested on one moment, so as you can imagine I was quite nervous.

In my current role, I oversee our pre-reg development programme, so this year I was equally anxious, crossing my fingers and hoping that our trainees all got the results they were after. Thankfully, 74% passed their exams and are now set to take their first steps as newly qualified pharmacists. This is a really important time for them – the hard work isn’t over yet. After a bit of much deserved celebrating, they will need to make sure they are ready to step up to their new role, as registered professionals.

It’s an equally crucial time for the 26% that didn’t pass their exam. As an employer, we have a role to play here. There are many reasons that somebody might fail an exam. It could be down to nerves, personal issues, environmental distractions or even just having an off day. Our job is to help pick this group up and get them ready to go again. They have an opportunity in September to retake and until then we will continue to support anyone that needs it. They can carry on working with us before their next exam and we will support them to revise and refresh their knowledge.

Not passing an exam is not the end of the world, just a minor setback. I know many successful pharmacists who needed to retake their exam. We try to encourage our trainees to see this as a learning experience and emphasise the value of resilience.

It was interesting to read the industry-wide results and to see the reaction to this year’s figures. 72% across the board is the lowest pass rate for many years. For us, our figure remained at the same level as last year. Whilst we expect some degree of variation in pass rate each year, as no cohort is the same, our approach remains doesn’t change: we’re here to set our pre-regs up for success. The 12-month programme we run is all about supporting the development of our trainees and getting them ready to sit, and hopefully pass, their exams.  

We are already making improvements to our programme which we hope will result in an even better experience for our next cohort. The feedback we get each year is extremely valuable in helping us to understand what more support our pre-regs need.

One of the things we always look at when we review our current development programmes is how we can tailor them to meet the needs of the future of pharmacy. As the sector continues to change, we need to ensure that we are equipping the next generation of professionals with the skills, tools and mindset needed to move our industry forward.

Finally, I’d like to say congratulations to everyone who passed their exams and good luck to anyone taking a second attempt in September!