A guide to working abroad
All your bags are packed, you’re ready to go. You’re standing there, outside the door. You’re ready to leave on a jet plane and start a new life in some far-flung exotic clime, plying your trade under the shade of palm trees where grim inner-city terraces feel a lifetime away.
Unfortunately, these days relocation isn’t quite as simple as turning up at your destination of choice with a passport, toothbrush and a wallet stuffed with local currency – especially if you want to practise pharmacy.
The first factor you’ll need to consider is where you want to go. Do you see yourself practising in the bustling alleys of Hong Kong, under the clear skies of Canada or among the cultured streets of Paris?
This isn’t just an aesthetic consideration: every country has its own registration requirements. In some countries, such as the US and Canada, these can even vary from state to state.
One almost universal requirement is a letter of good standing from the RPSGB. This costs £70 and usually takes two to three weeks to be completed. It is valid for six months from issue date.
Then, in some countries, such as those in the European Economic Area (EEA), a pharmacist registered in the UK can automatically register with the destination country’s regulatory body. But in others, such as Canada and Australia, candidates will be required to sit a series of evaluations.
The first step is often an eligibility assessment – effectively an exam to ensure the pharmacy course you were taught is comparable to the country’s own system. There is often a charge to sit the exam. However, this is usually only a gateway to the evaluation process. Candidates may then need to take a general competency evaluation of their pharmacy skills. These are often held several times a year in the UK and, again, there is often a charge.
General examinations may be followed with interviews, supervised practise and further examinations, often by individual state boards. These final hurdles usually take place in the destination country. Requirements may not be limited to pharmacy skills and knowledge of local laws and ethics. Some countries, states and provinces may require you to sit a language exam as part of the registration process; evaluation exams may also be in the native language. Other requirements can include first aid certificates and proof of a job on arrival.
Outside of pharmacy, you will need to make sure you’ve ticked other boxes. You will need an in-date passport and may require a work permit. Work permits can also apply to relocation inside the UK: pharmacists who want to move to the Isle of Man require an employer to justify that they are not depriving the local population of work.
Some companies, such as large chains, may sponsor your application and pay exam fees on the understanding you join them when registered. They may also provide incentives for joining, such as temporary accommodation and transport on arrival.
You will also need to remember to tie up loose ends at home. If you decide you do not want to remain a member of the RPSGB, you will need to write to the registrar stating you wish to leave the register. Retiring from the RPSGB register isn’t permanent and you can rejoin by paying the retention fee. However, if you fail to notify the registrar of your intention to leave and stop paying fees, your name will be erased from the register, requiring you to pay a restoration fee and all outstanding retention fees if you do need to rejoin.
It’s also important to check – as you would tell your patients – if you need any vaccinations, and to ensure that you have adequate health insurance, especially if you’re planning to work in the US.
Finally, once your dream job is confirmed and you’re registered abroad, familiarise yourself with local laws and customs; some countries have strict penalties for minor offences such as breaches of dress code.
Your questions answered
Q I want to live abroad. How do I make sure I’ll be able to practise pharmacy once I get there?
A Chris Chapman has the following checklist:
• Check the registration requirements of your destination country.
• Apply for a letter of good standing from the RPSGB.
• Make sure you know individual state and provincial requirements.
• Check if you need to learn a new language.
• Contact potential employers to find out about sponsorship.
• Make sure your passport is in date and work permits are in order.
• Remember to check for vaccinations and obtain health insurance.
Details of registration requirements in other countries and application forms to obtain a letter of good standing from the RPSGB are available at www.rpsgb.org/acareerinpharmacy/workinginothercountries
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