I wanted to write about what the first year of pharmacy involves (the content and modules), how it is assessed and what that is actually like. I am the second year of the new course and when I was researching universities Bath was still operating its older course so it wasn’t set in stone what was to be included. I think it would be helpful to know what sort of knowledge the course includes. There are 5 modules- Healthy Body 1 and 2 (Biology), Molecules to Medicines 1 and 2 (Chemistry) and Preparing for Professional Practice. You can find more info about these modules here. Each are 12 credit modules and you have to pass all of them and there are some other requirements. First year doesn’t count towards the degree mark, however you do have to pass everything to progress to the second year, so if you fail something you have to retake it in the summer. In addition to the exams for each of the modules there are is also a Pharmaceutical calculations exam- doing calculations such as working out doses and how many grams are in a certain amount of a cream for example, which has a 70% pass mark and you have to pass to progress.
There are also two observed structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) in first year, both of which you must pass. The learning for these comes under a mixture of the Healthy body and Preparing for Professional Practice modules. These test how well you can communicate with a patient to find out what is wrong and then give them the right treatment, using clinical knowledge and also knowledge of products and of consultation skill models. To be honest when I heard about these I thought that’s good as I am good at talking, but it is a bit harder than that. You have to learn to a certain extent the Calgary Cambridge model of consultation skills and know the right questions to ask in the right order, checking for any red flag dangerous symptoms. You also have to be able to listen to the symptoms and work out what is wrong with the patient and make sure you get enough medical history, then summarise and give them the right treatment while ensuring you are empathetic and provide good non-verbal communication.
Some of the conditions you cover in first year include cough, cold, flu, hayfever, and sore throat. You sit in a little room with a lecturer and they pretend to be a patient with one of these conditions, and you ask questions and find out what is wrong and offer an appropriate treatment e.g. with chesty cough mixture giving them choices, e.g. drowsy or non-drowsy or children’s depending when their problem is what they are doing, their age. The other consultation is again with a lecturer or someone who role plays a patient who has been given a prescription for, or wants help with, a few different types of inhalers or a peak flow meter for asthma. You talk to them about the device and teach them how to use it properly, checking that they understood. If you fail one you have to retake both, although most people pass as long as you have practised (I did it over Skype with my boyfriend and family and with a flatmate) and have learnt symptoms, treatments and how to use the devices. You also get workshops to help you learn and which provide valuable practice.
The two Healthy body units include things such as DNA transcription, translation, nervous system, cells, microbiology, metabolism, endocrinology, heart, lungs, liver, health psychology- changing behaviours, and much more! Each unit has a 3-hour exam and 60% is multiple choice (with 20% scaling so 20% of your mark is taken off to allow for random guessing). The rest are short answer questions , and typically you can choose four questions from a choice of six. In the first semester we had quite a few 2 hour practicals- for example doing a microbiology practical followed by write ups including data analysis.
The two medicines to molecules units included topics like organic chemistry, bonding, amino acids, shapes and molecular structure, biochemical reactions, drug design, kinetics, pharmacokinetics, acid-base, absorption, analysis and drug development process. These are also 3 hours long exams consisting of some multiple choice questions (some of the patients were Harry Potter characters!) and some short answer questions. We had 3 hour practicals once a week for most of the second semester practising analysis, which was quite interesting, and we also did a practical data analysis which counted for 10% of our second molecules to medicine unit.
The final unit is the preparing for professional practice unit where we learnt things like roles of pharmacists in different departments, different pharmacist skills, ethics, pharmacy law, and evidence based practice which covers how to write continuous professional development entries reflecting what you have learnt. We also practiced dispensing and have worked on two problem based learning projects- a presentation about what to say to a parent of a child with a cough and a summer safety campaign) in our tutor groups which count towards the module as well as an essay. We also have a pharmaceutical calculations exam which is not part of this unit but it is compulsory to pass it 70% for the year which is a mixture of multiple choice and short answer calculations.