Bullying during pre-registration

BP 120/80. BP 200/120. The email has arrived. Subject “ Results”. The roar is deafening as you realise you’ve passed your final exams! All…

BP 120/80. BP 200/120. The email has arrived. Subject “ Results”. The roar is deafening as you realise you’ve passed your final exams! All that hard work paid off and now you are going to become a Pre-registration Pharmacist Trainee!

9 months into your pre-registration training, and you think you’ve made a huge mistake. You’re excelling in all your tasks, you have completed numerous examples for professional competencies, you’ve even worked excess hours and days, but your tutor still is not happy enough to sign you off. What has gone wrong?

This is an increasing problem and has been around for decades. Speaking to a pre-registration student they felt their tutor is being unrelentingly harsh and over demanding to the point the student has been in tears numerous times. The last few years however I have been hearing students say they feel bullied by their tutor. This is astonishing. Pharmacists bullying their students? I spoke to one such student and they said, their tutor was not signing them off for their examples in competencies, despite other pharmacists working in the hospital saying they have done more than expected with their examples and compared to previous pre-regs. The tutor also went forward not to sign the pre-reg off to sit their exam.

If this was such a major issue, but then why has this not been raised till now? There are a multitude of reasons:

  • Pre-reg’s are scared of being blacklisted by the hospital and other hospitals therefore losing out on their dream career

  • Pre-regs are scared if they say anything, then their tutor will never sign them off

  • Pre-reg’s are told its only 1 year so put up with it and do not look back by those around them (including pharmacists)

  • Pre-reg’s do not know how to raise the issue to the right people

These are some of the reasons I have heard first hand from pre-registration students, and quite frankly it’s frightening how a profession very vehement into its professionalism can treat future professionals in such an undignified manner. Sometimes foreign pre-regs are treated worse than UK students. I have heard how 1 foreign student was told they needed greater than 10 examples per competency in order for the tutor to sign them off.

So why do some tutors behave ‘unprofessionally’’? Some pre-regs did ask their tutor and the responses resonate around “My pre-reg tutor was hard on me so why shouldn’t I”. Quite frankly this is not an excuse, its a deflection of their responsibility and unprofessional.

Speaking to a pharmacist about this issue, they said “I can’t see why some tutors behave like this. Bullying was a problem when I was a pre-reg and I didn’t like it when it happened to me, so why would I make my student go through the same thing?”

“I can’t see why some tutors behave like this. Bullying was a problem when I was a pre-reg and I didn’t like it when it happened to me, so why would I make my student go through the same thing?”

Below are a selection of real life examples I have heard or told to me by pre-regs of ‘bullying’ and unprofessional behaviour, including 1 of the pre-registration on the tutor:

  • Students being told that if they take a toilet break they’re time wasting, but if the pharmacist does it (and is gone for longer) its not

  • Pre-reg’s being blackmailed that they won’t be signed off if e.g they don’t have an unreasonable number of examples of each competency — In this case the no was more than 10

  • Pre-reg’s feeling they cannot whistleblow otherwise they will not be signed off — infering blackmail

  • Pre reg’s not being able to question things on prescriptions for their own learning because the pharmacist sees it as a waste of time and very often cannot be bothered to explain — exploitation of pre-reg?

  • Pre reg being given all the help but then they whistleblow at the slightest mistake made by the tutor (THE OTHER SIDE OF BULLYING)

  • Telling your pre reg his/her progress is fine, however for each progress report they are not being signed off- why is this? (communication issues which should not be there because there is supposed to be a thorough meeting between the tutor and pre-reg for each progress report)

How to solve bullying

Coming face to face with a bully is never an easy task no matter what stage in your life it is. In a professional environment though, there are a few approaches:

  1. Speak to your Tutor regarding how you feel — If your tutor is a professional, they should take your feeling into account and openly discuss what the issue is.

  2. Sign up to the PDA — The PDA provide free legal advice to professionals, as long as you signed up before the problem happened.

  3. Report to the GPhC — The GPhC are there to oversee professionalism and therefore should be contacted if there is no resolution with the tutor.

  4. Contact your university personal/academic tutor — Just because you have left university, it does not mean your university do not want anything to do with you. Many are very happy to speak to alumni students, especially in times like this, when they will be able to provide professional advice and support.

  5. Speak to the Pharmacist’s Support Charity — They provide support in a multitude of settings for pharmacy students, pharmacists and former pharmacists.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and is in no particular order, except number 1 which should be your first option.

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