Far from home: student pharmacist visits from UK

This summer Cardiff University pharmacy student Joseph Thomson spent five weeks more than 4,000 miles away from home.

Thompson visited Spokane from July 1 through August 4 to participate in specialty pharmacy experiences hosted by the Washington State University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS). Back home, he attends the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cardiff University in Wales, one of the top-rated pharmacy programs in the U.K.

Just as CPPS Doctor of Pharmacy students are able to apply to participate in an elective international rotation during their fourth professional year, student pharmacists from our partnering international institutions have the opportunity to apply to come participate in professional shadowing experiences in Spokane.

Thomson spent his first two weeks of the experience at the CPPS Drug Information Center (DIC)—a drug information service which responds to inquiries from health care professionals about interactions, side effects, and other drug-related topics.

“I really enjoyed the time in the DIC,” said Thomson. “That’s something I’ve never experienced before.”

The next two weeks were spent first in conversations with college faculty members about their areas of expertise then shadowing at a local pharmacy.

One of the most surprising things to Thomson was the difference between pharmacies in the U.K. and the U.S.

“There are lots of independent pharmacies,” said Thomson, “back home it’s all retail.”

Thomson added that one of the biggest differences was in the counting of pills, explaining that in the U.K. the pills were all pre-packaged.

The final week of Thomson’s stay was spent shadowing the Providence Visiting Nurses Association (PVNA). According to Thomson, this was also his favorite site location.

“They work together as a team and collaborate,” said Thomson. “It’s like House without the cool bit of Hugh Laurie being there.”

He also appreciated the chance to interact in the home, saying it gave him the opportunity to see how people can be overwhelmed.

When he wasn’t engaged in pharmacy experience activities, Thomson had the opportunity to explore Spokane.

“I really liked the hikes and the green spaces,” he said. “Eagle point was lovely”

Thomson so enjoyed his time in Spokane, he said he would recommend the experience to classmates, saying, “It’s definitely worthwhile to see the differences across continents… I’d do it again.”

Thomson’s experience was organized through the WSU CPPS Office of Experiential Services. International rotations are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that allow student pharmacists the opportunity to experience the practice of pharmacy in diverse cultural and clinical settings.

Spokane student pharmacists traveling to Wales as part of this exchange are exposed to all aspects of community pharmacy practiced in the UK including National Health Service, reimbursement mechanisms, NHS contracts, prescription pricing bureau, professional organizations. The community pharmacy is part of the Co-Op chain and located in Cardiff (the capital of Wales) about two and a half hours by train west of London.