Joanne Taylor reflects on the important task that the Vittoria Healthcare team undertakes each summer in providing pharmacy students with invaluable real life pharmacy experience

It’s summer time, which at Vittoria Healthcare usually means two things – holidays and pharmacy students.

We get many requests from students who are home from university and want to come and spend a few weeks in one of our pharmacies to gain invaluable experience of working life in a busy community pharmacy. Every member of the pharmacy team is involved in giving the students a helping hand in their first week or so until they find their feet, and students get to see every aspect of community pharmacy. They spend time on the medicines counter shadowing a medicines counter assistant, where they learn so much about OTC recommendations and when to refer to the pharmacist or other staff members when necessary.

In fact, students are often amazed as to the vital role that medicines counter assistants perform every day, really making a difference to patients and their care. Students also spend some time experiencing the range of services provided by the pharmacy: medicines use reviews, emergency hormonal contraception, smoking cessation, alcohol awareness and the new minor ailments scheme in our area. This ensures the students become familiar with the ever-evolving clinical roles that pharmacists now perform.

However, the dispensing process is still key and, more often than not, it is surprising that many students have had no previous experience of the dispensing process, so it’s a huge learning curve. Both pharmacy technicians and dispensing assistants play a key role in aiding the students with this new task and it is often a good revision tool for the dispensing staff themselves; giving them a chance to review their own knowledge and to reflect on their own understanding of the standard operating procedures. It’s easy to take everything that we are familiar with for granted.

Yet having students in the pharmacy gives all staff the opportunity to promote their skills and to demonstrate to the pharmacists of the future just how important a community pharmacy is and just how much it contributes to patient health and wellbeing on a daily basis.

Joanne is a registered pharmacy technician and ACPT, and is professional standards lead at Vittoria Healthcare. She is national secretary for the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK), and is a member of the Medicines Rebalancing Programme Board at the Department of Health as well as TM’s editorial advisory panel.

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