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Life as a student in Bath

Topic: Jemima (Pharmacy)

First year Pharmacy course and assessment


📥  Faculty of Science, Jemima (Pharmacy)

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.

My modules for the first 2 years

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.


How I came to study Pharmacy at Bath


📥  Faculty of Science, First year, Jemima (Pharmacy)

I thought it would be helpful to write about my journey to studying pharmacy here at the University of Bath. I will start by saying that while I have enjoyed my first year of Uni, pharmacy is an incredibly difficult course. When I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor and even when choosing my A levels I knew I wanted to do something involving patients, using my science to help people. I did work experience in a hospital with the view to do either studying medicine or pharmacy and I honestly found the doctors job on this specific ward very boring, spending hardly any time with patients hours looking at a patients’ tests.

I also spent time with most other healthcare professionals- physios, occupational therapists, nurses, healthcare assistants and a ward pharmacy assistant. I found their jobs much more interesting and rewarding- I talked to the pharmacy assistant about the role of the pharmacist and really enjoyed what the pharmacy assistant was doing, checking drug charts, talking to patients, arranging discharge medicines, roles the pharmacist often did as well. I also did some work experience with emergency nurse practitioners in a minor injuries unit- I loved their role as well but knew that I didn’t want to be a nurse. I found out that pharmacists are starting to be used in this sort of area in A&E and in GP surgeries, and I also considered other potential areas for pharmacists, and from then on I decided that I wanted to be a pharmacist. I completed an Extended Project Qualification (equal to an AS) on the future of pharmacy- how pharmacists’ roles are changing in traditional types and what new areas of pharmacy are emerging.

I first came to the Uni on the open day and I fell in love with Bath straight away, even after a difficult journey that should have taken about 3 hours but which took over 5 (leave plenty of time if travelling by car to an Open Day as Bath can get quite congested!) I had also visited Bath a couple of years earlier and had always wanted to come back and so it was so great that the Uni offered pharmacy. I would really encourage people to go to open days- it is a wonderful way to get a feel for the university, the facilities and the course that they are offering. I think it is so important that I am helping out at our upcoming open days (more to follow).

Bath is one of the top universities for Pharmacy in the UK, consistently getting 90-100% pass rate in the pre-reg exam (which is set by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and all pharmacists must pass to register). As a comparison, one other uni that I applied for had a pass rate of about 50%. The grade requirements for pharmacy at Bath are quite high- AAB, including chemistry and one other science at A level as the scientific content is of a high level and is hard. I exceeded the offer and have still struggled to understand/remember things at times this year!

For me applying to do Pharmacy went like this: I went to the summer open days at the end of first year of college in around June time (Bath has Open Days in June and September) then applied in October for 5 pharmacy courses of different standards/grade requirements. In early November I had my first interview, at Bath! For healthcare courses, you almost always have to have an interview, partly I think to help reduce the numbers of people slightly as lots apply and it is very competitive, but mainly to check that you have the people skills for treating patients, to check your motivation for wanting to study pharmacy and to ask a little bit of chemistry. I was so pleased my first offer was from Bath (my favourite uni) and then over time I had interviews at the other places and got other offers. Once I had got one from Reading as well, my insurance, I officially put my firm and insurance choices on UCAS. I was worried about putting my firm and insurance as Bath and then Reading as they both had high requirements but my personal advice would be to put your two favourites unless you are really unlikely to get the grades.

In April I applied for accommodation,  and then I found out I had a place at Bath on results day in August. From then on I was in a pharmacy Facebook group chat and then we got allocated our accommodation and there were pages set up on Facebook to find your flatmates so then we had a flat groupchat. Then at the end of September I finally started studying Pharmacy at the University of Bath.

Confirmation of my place at Bath!

Confirmation of my offer from Bath!

A bit of advice if you are just looking to apply to do Pharmacy as a backup for medicine-don't! If you are thinking about it be careful as some universities say they would rather have someone with lower grades/lower predicted grades that wanted to do pharmacy than someone who wanted to do medicine but didn't get in. I didn’t realise that Pharmacy would be so hard or intense- everyone thinks of medicine being really hard but I think (maybe controversially) that pharmacy is just as hard and you have to have much of the same knowledge- complex biology and chemistry, potentially even more chemistry and maths doing calculations as well and knowing more about drugs. The course for pharmacy is 4 years as opposed to 5 for medicine but really pharmacy needs to be or could easily be stretched to 5 years (with some unis doing this).

After completing a pharmacy degree there is a year (pre-registration year) where you work in a pharmacy underneath another pharmacist, with an exam at the end set by the GPhC. One of the slightly annoying things about pharmacy is the fact that you have so much knowledge you must know and by the time you are qualified you have had a lot of training and often continue to train (Independent prescribing, Clinical Pharmacy Practice Certificates/Diplomas/Masters etc) and have to complete 9 continuing professional development entries every year. You don’t get paid anywhere near as much as well qualified doctors (although it is still a professional salary), and may not get as much respect from people- some people think you are just training to be a glorified shop assistant, which is really not true and I am glad to say that I think the public perception of pharmacists is starting to change. If you really want to do pharmacy and become a pharmacist, which I personally wanted to, then Bath is an excellent place to study it!


Moving into and being in Student Accommodation - Westwood


📥  First year, Jemima (Pharmacy)

So the point arrives, you have got into uni and found out which flat you are in. Your mind is filled with ideas- What will it be like? How many people will be in my flat? Will they steal my food? How many people will be sharing a toilet? Well at least these questions were going around my brain- I was equally excited and terrified!

It all started in April when I applied for accommodation: I didn’t know what to choose so went for the second cheapest sink-shared bathroom- Westwood. When applying you put your accommodation choices in order of preference, but you wont get allocated a room until after you have a confirmed place which for me was in late August. On Facebook, there are normally groups set up for each accommodation bock and/or flat. Quickly a group chat for my flat emerged, which was great because we got to talk and begin to get to know each other for almost a month before arriving at uni.

I moved in on Sunday 25th of September, my boyfriend’s birthday, so while I was happy to go to uni I was sad to miss his birthday! Some people had already moved in the day before and had got to know each other a bit and updated us all in our group chat on what it was like. I arrived at Bath in the car with my family and was directed to where to park to pick up my keys. There were lots of helpful people wearing t shirts to tell us where to go- I picked up my key and then we drove around to temporarily park by the building to unload my belongings. I dumped my stuff in my room and then my family and I drove into town to get some lunch- it was so busy everywhere we ended up going to Gourmet Burger Kitchen which was great (although they gave me a children’s menu that said for under 12s on it!)

After lunch we went to do a little Tesco shop to make sure I had all the essential food items (make sure you take advantage of this and maybe create a list before hand so you can get the most food possible while you have your parents to potentially pay or at least help you carry all the shopping!) Then the time came for my family to leave and for me to unpack!

My bed

My bed

Once my family had left I realised that I was supposed to be in a talk- I found someone else from my flat and we tried to find the lecture theatre and get in late but in the end were too late for it to be acceptable! We then found out they were holding one the next day for people who had missed it! For Freshers' Week there were wristbands, bought in advance, for the events going on and so we went with another boy from my flat to pick them up and wander around campus which was nice. We then went back and unpacked, and met more of my new flatmates. It seemed like we all knew each other well straight away!

Over the next week we all became friends really quickly. Everyone is in the same situation- they have just come to uni, and want to make friends! Therefore, people are friendly! Bath seems to attract decent people of all backgrounds and personalities so you are bound to fit in! There are about 20 people in my flat in Westwood and this is great because there are always loads of people to get on with and it means you know more people and gain instant friends! Within a week, I think I was closer to many people in my flat than I am with many of my friends I have known for years because you can spend so much time together if you want to! We all socialise in one of the kitchens so we know where to go if we want to chat and see people.

Our kitchen

Our kitchen

I felt so at home so quickly, we all just felt we knew each other and fitted in straight away. So, if you are worried about being lonely or missing your family or friends, don't be! Obviously, it is still nice to message and Skype people back home but you don’t need to talk all the time and probably won't as you will be busy with your flatmates!

View out of my window

View out of my window

Westwood for me is great! It has a good sense of atmosphere and comradery. Everyone seems to be easy to get along with and the advantage is that there are loads of other people in the same block, so loads of people to meet! We have about 100 people in our block. Our flats are arranged horizontally with around 20 people living along a long corridor on the same floor, while some other flats are vertical 'houses'. We have two big and one small kitchen, four toilets and five showers which seems like plenty- there has never been a problem with them being taken when needed. While the communal corridor is a bit nondescript, inside the rooms are nice especially once personalised. A great app to help with decorating a room is free prints- you can get free pictures printed from your phone to put up in your room.

Pictures on my wall

Pictures on my wall

Overall I have found student accommodation to be great. I think that you miss home a lot less than expected because at first it is new and exciting and then it just feels like home and your flatmates are like family! Our flat is even planning on living together next year as two houses! It is also so convenient as you are right near the lecture theatres, and so you can get out of bed at 9 for a 9:15 lecture (with a bit of a rush!). Westwood is really good and I am glad I chose it- if you are thinking about Bath accommodation I’d say go with Westwood as it is one of the cheapest and most central accommodation options, there are loads of opportunities to meet people, and it is being redecorated for next year (at least our corridor is!)


Freshers Week 2016!!


📥  Jemima (Pharmacy)

Sunday: I arrived with my family a nervous little 18-year-old, some of my flatmates had moved in the day before so I was eager to meet them. Once we had dumped my stuff, we headed off into town to get some lunch and shopping. We went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen which was delicious, although I got given a children’s menu! We popped to a Tesco express which didn’t have much choice so was not the best place to go! (Handy Tip- Head to the big Sainsbury’s in Greenpark, which apparently has big pizza’s for 90p!). My parents left and slowly I met people as they arrived back at the flat, as they had been stuck in town, due to buses being delayed and cancelled.

Everyone in my flat seemed really friendly and we soon congregated in the East kitchen and got around to pre drinks as a flat with Faye our crew member, another pharmacy student (2nd Year). We learnt a lot about each other, playing’ never have I ever’ and the game where you have to guess if a statement someone says is a lie. We went to the Claverton Rooms for a very hot but enjoyable couple of hours of dancing.

Generally mid-week: There were many induction talks and lectures, we found out and met our tutors, met our peer mentors, who are students in older years that we can ask questions to, found out more about certain elements of the course and about using the library and course specific activities such as lab coat and safety spec fittings on the Wednesday! On the Monday there as a welcome speech by the Vice Chancellor to everyone split by accommodation and then sketch like information which was quite funny. On Thursday afternoon in the pharmacy department there was a group activity making something science/pharmacy related out of recycling and my team won! We made some safety specs, a jellyfish, some DNA with Watson and Crick, a box of tablets, a syringe and a lab coat!

'Our' DNA

'Our' DNA

Then afterwards they gave us Domino’s pizza and drinks which was so good- as a Fresher you learn to take advantage of free food! The same night the Christian union ran a free BBQ which was great but it meant I got double free food! There were also quite a few fair type things advertising sports, societies and local businesses which was cool like I won a voucher for a free main meal at Wagamama.

The Evenings!

Monday: The theme was show your colours, we all got a t-shirt dependent on what accommodation we were in, which were different colours. The main event was so busy; it was so buzzing! There was a lot of inter-flat rivalry and chanting, which was pretty entertaining (big up Wolfson). The music for the night was the chip shop boys who did some classic tunes.

Tuesday: The theme was Welcome to the Jungle and I was a tiger, the Midnight Beast played and it was super good. There were lots of animals, that night there were slightly less people so in my personal opinion it was better as it was a bit less squished. My flatmate Alice and I met these really cool security guys, we chatted to one for a while and the other was dancing!

Tiger time

Tiger time

Wednesday: The theme was Bath time, which most people did struggle to dress for I wore a blue denim dress because water is kind of blue with a little yellow top to go with the minimalist theme and a blue wave on the side of my head.

Thursday: Neon Night! This was cool, I got purple/pink neon glitter hairspray and wore my brightest colour clothes, with bright yellow face paint dots. The music was DJ Kristian Nairn from Game of Thrones (Hodor!), then Danny Howard.

My flatmates

My flatmates

Friday: theme was ‘When I grow up’, which I found hard as I wasn’t sure what to do, in the end I bought some angel wings and was an angel. Other people were things like a policeman or a nun! The music was the Hoosiers and George Shelley.

Saturday: Toga Night! It was a case of grab a bed sheet and a load of safety pins! One of my flatmates fell over in the main event where Greg James and Beat a Maxx were. We had to take her out to the water tent for a while and we were all freezing in our little togas! Greg James was so good he was definitely my favourite DJ of the week.