In a few months time, a new batch of pharmacy students will leave the sanctuary of their university to plunge straight into the job market. The transition from being a student to become a full-fledged pharmacist is a challenging one, and may be the toughest transition yet for these young graduates. It requires a significant shift in mindset, and to a large extent, modifications of one's lifestyle and behaviour.

This transition period is also the time where these graduates must confront the dilemma of choosing a right career path in the pharmacy profession. Such decision is never easy to reach, and the efforts required from the graduates to make these choices unavoidably put additional stress to them.

Here are some ways to ease the transition process from being a student to becoming full-fledged a pharmacist.

Recognise your professional responsibilities

This is, perhaps, the most challenging aspect of transforming from a student into a healthcare professional. Not only that there will be no longer a tutor or lecturer to guide them or take responsibilities for any decisions made, but these graduates are sometimes asked to provide professional advice to other pharmacy staff too.

The breadth and depth of their existing knowledge will become their sole support in their newfound responsibilities. It is not easy to come into terms with the fact that every decision made may potentially bring harm to their patients; even the notion of them bearing a duty of care towards real patients now may distress a good portion of these young pharmacists.

New pharmacists must be steadfast in handling their everyday job, and know when it is appropriate to seek help from other senior pharmacists. Being over-confident of one's knowledge and skill is almost always a blight in a pharmacist's career, especially when the field is advancing by leaps and bounds.

New discoveries are made every day, and longstanding pharmacy practices are amended or even overturned at a faster-than-ever pace. In the face of such challenges, new pharmacists should always counter-check their decisions with senior pharmacists to avoid unnecessary risk to patients.

Be ready to immerse in a full-time job

Full-time pharmacy work is challenging. Not only it is intellectually demanding, but most pharmacists are regularly required to work long hours. This is especially true for provisionally-registered pharmacist (PRP) training. Regardless of where they choose to undertake such training, be it in the community, hospital or even industrial setting, PRPs will be asked to work beyond the normal 8-5 working hours.

Sometimes this reality hits these young graduates like a bucket of ice water and some will scream "violations of labour law", yet many other PRPs managed to complete their training with a good sense of satisfaction. We acknowledge that many new pharmacy practitioners face real struggles to adapt, but maintaining a positive mindset will help tremendously for a smooth transition.

Refine your communication skills

Pharmacists are required to be good at communication. In fact, all medical professionals are required to be good communicators. There are real differences in talking to real patients compared to passing the undergraduate OSCE examination. The ability to send clear and accurate messages is one of the most important skills a pharmacist can, and should, learn in his or her career.

In a multicultural society, the key to a successful career depends heavily on how well a pharmacist can understand the impact of diverse socio-ethnic differences can have on patient communication, and ultimately affect how the pharmacist interact with their patients. MIMS

Read more:
Pharmacy students: Preparing effectively for the BCPS examination
Pharmacists: Here are your options for postgraduate studies
Beyond the pharmacy: The potential of a pharmacy degree