Since the summer holiday is coming to an end, this month for our blog post we’d like to share some summer opportunities experienced by pharmacy students this year. Everyone has heard of placements during the summer, but there are some other exciting opportunities out there whether they’re in this country or abroad. We are going to give you a bit more information about these opportunities, and hopefully we’ll even inspire you to get involved next summer!
Student Exchange Programme in Romania
I was lucky enough to get involved with the IPSF (International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation) organisation this summer and complete a professional pharmacy internship in Romania. It wasn’t a long time ago when I first heard about this unique opportunity for pharmacy students, but I was hooked instantly. Having the opportunity in choosing your location of practice from over 60 different countries, presents the perfect chance for you to develop your pharmaceutical knowledge and skills whilst exploring a new culture and its surrounding. For my practice I had chosen two main host sites to focus on, one being pharmaceutical industry and second one community pharmacy. Having never been inside a pharmaceutical industry before, this was the area I was the most excited and curious about. I had my internship at Laropharm, local company which specialised in producing dietary supplements rich in vitamin C, E or minerals, apart from their other medication. I got a chance to closely observe the tabletting manufacture process, all from powder mix formation, granulation, drying, tablet compression to packaging. Also, shadowing a pharmacist at the Quality and Control lab gave me a good idea about all the individual testing of each tablet batch and specifications, using various analytical techniques (chromatography, IR spectroscopy, disintegration and dissolution testing).
On the other hand, working in a community pharmacy in Romania offered me a chance to observe and compare their standard operating procedures to what we know here in UK. One of the main surprises was having a small separate laboratory within the pharmacy to prepare an extemporaneous preparation, specific to the patient’s needs. This usually being solutions, suspensions such as the omeprazole suspension or a hydrocortisone cream. However, the practice is only half of what makes the student exchange programme so unique, the other half is networking with other pharmacy students from all around the world, exploring the beautiful country and making some unforgettable memories. Therefore, make sure that you check out the IPSF website (https://www.ipsf.org) for further information on next year’s programme. Don’t miss out!
NHS Hospital Placement
If you don’t have the money to go abroad during the summer, there are plenty of other ways to experience pharmacy locally. This summer I completed a one week placement at Bedford Hospital and 6 weeks paid placement at an independent community pharmacy. My hospital placement was an incredibly interesting experience, I had the opportunity to accompany pharmacists on their ward rounds and understand more of what their role involves. I found the placement dealt with a lot more clinical issues than community pharmacy, for example consultants turning to the pharmacist for help when an IV infusion of phenytoin was left running for hours instead of minutes.
Pharmacy robot used for dispensing medications in many hospital dispensaries
I was given my own audit project, which helped me to understand how this piece of coursework we did in first year actually applies to real life in a hospital. I was tasked with collecting data about medication left in the Acute Assessment Unit when patients were transferred to other wards or discharged. This included looking into cost implications i.e. if medication was reordered from the dispensary at the patient’s new ward and negative effects on patient care i.e. missed administrations due to patient’s new wards not having medication stock and readmissions when patient’s TTOs were not taken home on discharge. Applying for hospital placements is much easier than you’d think, as long as you apply before the deadline (usually at the end of January). NHS hospital placement application forms are available online and after completion, you just need to email them or hand them in to the hospital you’re applying for. Some hospitals prioritise 3rd years and they’ll most definitely interview you, but if you’re interested, you won’t know unless you go for it. I learnt so much during such a short period of time and really enjoyed spending time with the specialist pharmacists in the paediatric and maternity wards and learning about how the trust formulary is developed at this hospital.
If you don’t get the opportunity to do a hospital placement, I still really recommend community placements as there’s nothing like practice. You get the opportunity to speak to actual patients in real life situations, which are so different from pharmacy practice workshops! I also learnt a lot of counselling points, especially with antibiotics. At the end of the day, experience is experience and you’ll benefit from it, no matter what you do.
Summer Research Project
I never thought I would enjoy doing a summer research project when I first heard about the opportunity. I’ve always been a bit scared of labs and chemistry was definitely not my strongest suit. However, I was really curious to see what it’s like to work in a lab and do your own independent research. My supervisor and all the PhD students I worked with were super helpful, they always made sure I have some interesting stuff to do and helped me out whenever I needed help (which, to be honest, was all the time). I had a great 6 weeks working on this project, I got to learn many new techniques and I definitely became more confident in my lab skills. This summet project was something completely new to me and it’s safe to say that I was a bit scared in the beginning but I am so happy that I got to experience it! It is definitely something I would recommend doing before leaving university!
We hope you’ve learnt more about some of the summer opportunities available to you. If you’re interested in anything we’ve mentioned, don’t hesitate to ask one of us on the APC committee or you can always do some more research of your own.
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Thank you for taking your time to read this blog post and stay tuned for more as we upload each month!