“Just remember you might feel alone, but you are never alone”.

Sean Brannen shares his journey from preparing for the assessment, through to becoming a responsible pharmacist.

Having qualified in 2021, Sean is now working as a community pharmacist for Boots. In this trainee story, he shares his journey from preparing for the assessment, through to becoming a responsible pharmacist.

As a recently qualified Pharmacist (almost 3 years now), I have experienced the challenges of preparing for the registration assessment, as well as the stresses of those first few years as Responsible Pharmacist. My story is slightly different to many others as I went into the MPharm as a mature student with a family and experience of working within the pharmacy world. This added its own challenges but also gave me experience and support to draw upon when needed.

Let’s start with the preparation for the registration assessment.

I completed my training year in community pharmacy within a large company that had lots of resources and support to guide me along the way. As I did six-month split placements in two different branches, I had two supportive tutors and was lucky enough to be given all the study time I needed to make sure I was prepared for the big day. I started the year with a solid plan … I was going to keep on top of my deadlines, prepare throughout the year and not leave everything until the last minute like I had at university. No prizes for guessing this didn’t quite go to plan.

Tip one from me - don’t panic.

So, it’s three months to go until my assessment – time to panic and prepare. Life got put on hold, all my plans got cancelled and all my spare time was now dedicated to study. It was my own fault, and this was the price I was going to pay for my lack of work earlier in the year. However, I can’t be too hard on myself. The trainee year is hard and working full time after four years at university is a huge transition. Stepping up from being a dispenser to stepping up into the role as a pharmacist even as a trainee is intense. Just for surviving deserves a pat on the back. So, tip one from me – don’t panic. No matter how much or little study or preparation you have done, it’s never too late. Panic won’t help so instead use that adrenaline to focus and plan. Look at the topics you haven’t covered in enough detail and work out what you need to prioritise for revision. Create a plan and stick to it, regardless of the social sacrifices you must make. Also, keep prioritising your wellbeing – eat healthily, drink plenty of water and exercise because it helps get the best out of yourself.

The big day came, I woke up early and did my best.

I walked out of the examination centre and a huge weight was lifted. I had done everything I could and now it was just a waiting game. I walked home from the examination centre and cried, which I’m not ashamed to admit. It had been six years of hard work and struggles and for the first time ever, I was finally near the end.

Remember, this isn’t your only chance at this assessment.

Each attempt is a learning opportunity and plenty of people have failed their first attempt. Not once in an interview have I been asked if I passed first time, and not once have I been asked what grade of MPharm I achieved. Just remember though that there is support out there for you no matter what happens. Pharmacist Support has a great Peer Support service where you can talk anonymously to a trained volunteer pharmacist about what you’re going through.

Fortunately, the good news arrived a few weeks later that I had passed. Finally, the chance to get my name on the wall and be Responsible Pharmacist for the first time.

My second tip is to build a network of peers for support before you start.

Being a responsible pharmacist brings new but exciting challenges.

Most community pharmacists work as the only pharmacist in their branch which brings a lot of decision-making responsibility. So, my second tip is to build a network of peers for support before you start. This won’t be one person but a collection of people with specialist areas. If I have a clinical decision to make, I have a peer who I trust would make the right decision if they were in my shoes, but I have a different peer who I go to for more ethical decisions or process-based queries. I’ve got peers who work in GP surgeries and hospital so I can get multiple opinions and perspectives for the more complex queries. I’ve also got a list of professional support including the RPS, PDA and Pharmacist Support, but you can work out which organisations best suit you and your needs.

Just remember you might feel alone, but you are never alone.

There is always someone at head office, a peer or a professional organisation who can help and support, and of course, our profession’s charity, Pharmacist Support. Have confidence in your ability, you have trained hard for this and shown that you have the knowledge.

More support for becoming a newly qualified pharmacist

More support for becoming a newly qualified pharmacist

Registration assessment: What to do when you receive your results

On this page, you will find everything you need to do when you receive your registration assessment results and details about support available from us and other organisations.

More support for becoming a newly qualified pharmacist

Help for newly qualified pharmacists

Find out more about how to develop your career and confidence as a newly qualified pharmacist.

More support for becoming a newly qualified pharmacist

Career options for MPharm graduates

Are you looking for a role away from pharmacy? This page contains information for trainees who have failed the assessment three times, and graduates who do not want to train as pharmacists.