The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association is in its 70th year and is the official student organisation of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. It represents undergraduate pharmacy students and preregistration trainees. Ryan Hamilton, MRPharmS, president of the BPSA, explains what the association has to offer.
Formed in 1942 and first recognised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society as its official student branch in 1967, the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) is the only organisation that solely represents and supports pharmacy students and preregistration trainees across England, Scotland and Wales. In its 70th year, the BPSA is the oldest pharmacy student organisation in the world and now represents over 10,800 pharmacy students and trainees.
How the BPSA represents students
The BPSA represents its members at the English Pharmacy Board of the RPS, the Modernising Pharmacy Careers Programme Board, the General Pharmaceutical Council and many other pharmacy organisations, including the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, Pharmacist Support, the United Kingdom Clinical Pharmacy Association and the National Pharmacy Association. Members of the BPSA’s executive also regularly meet with national employers to make sure students’ and trainees’ voices are heard.
This allows students to have a direct input into the decision-making process and raise issues that affect the future of the profession, in particular allowing students to influence decisions regarding pharmacy education and training. It also gives the members of the BPSA a valuable opportunity to learn more about the latest developments across the profession.
Recent achievements include working with the General Pharmaceutical Council to make important changes to the registration examinations and continually working with the Modernising Pharmacy Careers Programme to influence pharmacy education in the future. We are currently working with the UK Border Agency to produce guidance on the recent changes to visas for foreign preregistration trainees and we are starting to engage with various parliamentary activities. You can keep up to date with the latest development on the BPSA’s website.
How the BPSA helps students develop
The BPSA hosts a large number of events throughout the year. These events consist of a series of area conferences, an annual conference and a number of preregistration trainee conferences. This year will also see the return of Big Weekend, which is our summer team building event.
Area conferences are short events that combine presentations, workshops and discussions on professional or clinical subjects relevant to practice. The topics covered at these conferences are often not generally taught as part of the university syllabus so many students appreciate the opportunity to widen their knowledge of alternative treatments, ethical dilemmas and specific patient-care issues. Over the past two years, there have been days dedicated to pharmacist prescribing, pregnancy and breast feeding, alternative therapies, and alternative career paths. This spring we are covering subjects from neurology to paediatrics.
Many of our members tell us they want to know how the science taught on the MPharm influences daily practice or simply how to get a job within the pharmaceutical industry. In response to this we now hold an annual “Science into practice” conference. Speakers from major industrial pharmaceutical companies, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and academia have attended in the past.
During the Easter holiday, the BPSA holds its annual general meeting, known as the BPSA annual conference. More than 100 members from across Britain spend a week debating issues of relevance to student welfare, the pharmacy profession and the work of the BPSA itself. The annual conference is the perfect platform for students to express their views and opinions on all things pharmacy and influence how the BPSA represents them in years to come.
The annual conference also boasts an extensive social programme, ranging from official receptions and themed parties to the grand finale that is the BPSA annual ball. By attending the annual conference, students will meet a number of prominent figures from within the pharmacy profession, including directors from the RPS and GPhC, executives from major pharmacy corporations and many inspirational pharmacists.
The most successful and popular service offered by the BPSA is the professional development certificate (PDC) scheme. Established in 2001, the scheme has been developed as a result of members asking for accredited events, similar to the continuous educational process carried out by practising pharmacists. The PDC scheme is accredited by the RPS, which gives it a recognisable guarantee of quality to employers.
The scheme works on a simple points-collection system, with five points from various approved events and competitions collected in one academic year resulting in an official professional development certificate. Points are awarded for involvement in the area conferences, the annual conference, continuing professional development exercises in our Future Pharmacist magazine, RPS local practice forum meetings and BPSA competitions.
How the BPSA rewards the achievements of students
The BPSA runs a number of awards throughout the year and there is always something to participate in no matter what year of study you are in.
The BPSA and Reckitt Benckiser student of the year award is the BPSA’s longest running competition. By participating, students are able to learn about recent developments within pharmacy and healthcare, learn about over-the-counter products, and express their views on practice. This prestigious award also comes with a fantastic prize: an all-expenses paid trip to the International Pharmacy Students’ Federation annual congress, which takes place in August this year in Egypt.
We also run a “Responding to symptoms” competition in association with McNeil. This competition is a great opportunity for students to put their communication and counselling skills to use and possibly win cash prizes for doing so. Little clinical knowledge is needed to enter this competition.
Throughout the pharmacy degree and preregistration training year students and trainees will undertake a number of research and audit projects. At our annual conference in 2008 our members said they wanted to be able to present their research at conferences. In response to this the BPSA developed the research poster awards and is run in association with GlaxoSmithKline and the UKCPA. Previous winners have gone on to present their posters at other national pharmacy conferences.
Make sure you keep an eye out for our other awards and competitions such as Alliance Healthcare pharmacy future vision award in association with the BPSA and the RPS student of the year award in association with the BPSA.
How the BPSA supports preregistration trainees
There are specific services for preregistration trainees. As part of their membership benefits, BPSA preregistration trainee members are signposted to free indemnity insurance providers. We also hold a number of preregistration trainee specific events across the year to support trainees at the start of the year and also help them prepare for the registration exam later on.
The BPSA works closely with organisations such as the General Pharmaceutical Council, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association and Pharmacist Support. By working with these organisations we are able to support students throughout their training year and help them deal with any problems as quickly as possible.
A free magazine, Graduate Link, is also distributed to keep graduates informed of BPSA activities and give indispensable insight into the preregistration year. This is complemented by the BPSA’s undergraduate publication Future Pharmacist, which contains professional articles, approved educational exercises and updates on forthcoming BPSA events.
How to stay in touch with the BPSA
In 2009 we resurrected our monthly electronic newsletter, Get Involved!, which aimed to keep our members up to date with how the BPSA was representing them and what events and competitions were coming up. Christmas 2011 saw the BPSA teaming up with the RPS, Tomorrow’s Pharmacist and Pharmaceutical Press to deliver a comprehensive electronic newsletter to our members. From February 2012 this new and improved Get Involved! will be landing in our members’ inboxes every month.
Over the past two years we have also increased our presence across the internet using social media. You can follow us, like us, and interact with us using the links here:
BPSA on Facebook
Finally, if you need to get in touch with the BPSA you can contact any member of the team through the BPSA website: www.bpsa.co.uk.