Pharmacists need to shout about the great work they do to boost their sense of identity and media image, says Regan McCahill, president of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA), in her first piece for C+D
There are a lot of unknowns in pharmacy, whether that's new training models, low pre-registration pass rates, community pharmacy cuts, or the future of the profession. This worries me, and I think probably deters potential students.
I see the unknown as exciting; it's a wide-open door to walk through with the breadth of skills and knowledge I've gained from such diverse training. But I know it’s hard for a lot of students to see that. Coupled with the lack of identity for pharmacists and the poor representation in the media, this leaves a lot of students wondering "what is a pharmacist?".
A bigger push for better representation in the media would be a great start to improving this situation. We need to actually define what it is that we do, and how great it is to be a part of the pharmacy world.
The MPharm degree has definitely made a move in recent years to be more clinical, with a lot of courses teaching not only consultation skills, but also physical examinations. I feel this is essential to prepare students for the ever-evolving role of a pharmacist.
Schools of pharmacy are also starting to incorporate technology to a greater extent. When I went to the BPSA annual conference at Keele University in 2018, they demonstrated how they use technology to simulate virtual patients and environments.
With hospitals, and indeed community pharmacies, moving towards the digital era, it's great to see the higher education institutions preparing students for this.
It's important to have an open mind. The pharmacy profession is changing a lot, so you need to be willing to be flexible and to learn new things.
Regan McCahill is BPSA president and a pre-registration pharmacist at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust