Author: Yik Ming Boey
Often unfairly perceived by the general public as being mindless vending machines or more unflatteringly, “drug dealers”, pharmacists are in actuality an integral part of the healthcare system.
With the current pressure placed on junior doctors and other medical practitioners, pharmacists are needed more than ever to alleviate this crisis, particularly in the community sector where minor ailments can be dealt with swiftly. Although it is mainly up to doctors and other trained prescribers to determine what drugs are to be prescribed, the task of scrutinising these choices and subsequently raising any red flags fall onto the shoulders of pharmacists. If you can’t tell yet, I’m an MPharm (Master of Pharmacy) student at King’s and I’m writing this article in the hopes that it’ll help shed some light on what this course entails.
I’ve only recently completed my 2nd year of what is a 4-year programme, so instead of specifying on the modules for each year, I’ll primarily focus on my experience so far. Before my classes commenced in the first year, I was rather curious as to how my days would be structured, and whether I would have any free time at all to participate in extra-curricular activities. The good news is that Wednesdays are usually quite free, with the exception of a few weeks when placements take place. The earliest class starts at 9am (which I’m very grateful for) and there are rarely any activities that run after 5pm. This gives you plenty of time to join whatever societies that you might be interested in, and considering how active most of them are, I would definitely recommend doing that.
However, I was admittedly quite daunted by the lengthy laboratory sessions in our schedule, as this was quite a departure from the mere 2-hour sessions I had during my A-level studies. So, you can imagine my surprise when I found myself looking forward to them every week, as the studies that we performed were incredibly fascinating, not to mention highly pertinent to our lecture content. In fact, they helped to tie up any loose ends that might have cropped up when I was trying to digest a particularly difficult topic in class.
In terms of what you’ll be studying, there’re obviously numerous drug names that you’ll need to memorise, but there’s so much more to the course than that! You’ll be venturing deep into the chemistry behind each class of drugs, as well as several topics in human anatomy and cell biology. A good understanding of each of those aspects is absolutely crucial to a pharmacist because it makes you better equipped to recognise drug interactions and their possible contraindications in certain patients.
The syllabus also includes interactive simulation lessons which allow students to mimic what a pharmacist does on a day-to-day basis, such as cross-checking a doctor’s prescription or counselling a patient on their drugs and lifestyle habits. Furthermore, year 2 assessments tend to lean more heavily towards patient-centred scenarios. An example of that would be selecting the most appropriate treatment for a schizophrenic patient who has not responded well to typical antipsychotics.
Perhaps the best thing about studying Pharmacy at King’s is the close partnerships that we have with three of London’s major teaching hospitals – Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’. Students will get the opportunity to have placements in these hospitals, where they’ll shadow experienced practitioners in specific departments such as the Outpatient and Cardiovascular wards that I’ve been allocated to in the past. 2nd year students are typically entrusted to perform more hands-on tasks, eg. pasting labels onto medicine packaging and assembling the correct drugs for patients. A meticulously-planned handbook is also given to students to ensure that they make the most of their time whilst on placements.
I think it’s apt to conclude this article by mentioning that you’ll graduate with a master’s degree if you decide to study Pharmacy in the UK/ EU, which is rather unusual in other parts of the world. As a side note, King’s also happens to be ranked 7th internationally for Pharmacy (QS World University Rankings 2017). Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an exciting list of drug names on my desk just begging for my attention!
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