LAST year (2015) marked my 10th year in the UK. I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has passed. It feels like it was only yesterday I stepped off the plane at Heathrow for the first time, with a stomach full of butterflies.
In the last 10 years, I’ve enjoyed adapting from my potentially traditional pathway in Hong Kong – completing A-Levels, enrolling into and graduating from pharmacy school, relocating from Portsmouth alone for my pre-reg year with just two suitcases – to where I am now, a young professional Londoner working in the pharmaceutical industry.
Two years ago, I decided to take the registration exam for pharmacists in Hong Kong. Yes, Hong Kong is among one of those unfortunate countries where a UK pharmacist licence is not recognised. At that time, I wasn’t planning to go home just yet (nor am I now). Nevertheless, I took advantage of still being in the ‘exam mode’ and decided to get things over with. I resigned from my job and started working as a Teacher Practitioner at a London pharmacy school for three days a week, using the rest of my time to study.
Now, with my licence ready at hand, I could return to Hong Kong at any time and start practising straightaway, should there be any emergencies at home (touch wood).
What is the Hong Kong registration exam like?
For those of you who are planning to take the challenge, here’s a quick snapshot:
1. The regulatory/professional body is the Pharmacy & Poisons Board of Hong Kong
2. There are three papers – Pharmacy Legislation, Pharmacy Practice and Pharmacology
3. You might be used to multiple choice questions in the GPhC registration examination, but these papers consist of short and long, as well as essay questions – so it’s time to brush up your writing skills
4. Exams take place twice a year – in June and December
5. You can apply to sit all three papers in one go, or individually – you can re-sit for as many times as you want within three years until you pass all papers (otherwise you start over again)
For more information, visit the Pharmacy & Poisons Board of Hong Kong.
Were the actual exams easy?
No, of course they weren’t. Imagine going through your pre-reg year all over again but without the foundation of knowledge you learned from pharmacy school. With different clinical guidelines, practices and a brand new set of laws – and oh, forget about your bible, the BNF, MIMS is now your new best friend – I was thrown into a completely unknown territory. I know it sounds scary, but yet it’s not impossible! I sat all three papers within a week, and thereafter experienced the most worrying months in my life waiting for the results. But it was fine in the end, I passed all papers on my first go. So there, some may tell you that getting your Hong Kong licence is a lengthy process and it will involve blood, sweat and tears – listen no more! Here are the key things you ought to know:
1. Don’t waste time sitting each paper individually: It’s tempting, yes. You could spread them out and focus on just one paper every half/one year. But the truth is you might just get lucky and come across a really easy paper. If not, what’s the worst that can happen? You fail and you sit the paper again in six months.
2. Start applying to sit the exams as soon as you are registered in the UK: Even if you’re not planning to go home just yet, or if you’re from the UK and would like to work abroad – start applying as soon possible. Don’t underestimate the ‘exam’ state of mind while it lasts. The longer you’re out of it, the harder it is for you to get back into the game (plus statistically older people learn less well – just saying).
3. Make a plan: Before you start the actual studying, map out the syllabus and plan ahead. Identify the things you need to learn for each module, estimate the time you’ll take to learn them and develop an action plan. This way you won’t miss a thing. Refine this plan as you go along and stick to it! You’ll find it extremely satisfying when you start ticking things off the list.
4. Practice makes perfect: Even though it’s only two pages a day of your beloved Rang & Dale’s. I promise it’ll be worth your while. Studies have shown that your memory strengthens if you revisit something you’ve learned after one day, and again after seven days – there’s only one way to find out if it works for you.
5. Don’t stop working while you study: Be it locumming or a full time job, keep yourself busy in a professional working environment – it’s where you collate your clinical and practical knowledge which you won’t get from books.
6. Use the network: Speak to people who are preparing for the same exams – it’s really not that hard to join a forum or send a Facebook message. Form study groups, share experiences, advice and tips. You’ll learn something new every time. And by explaining what you know, you’re actually consolidating your own knowledge.
So those were my top tips, I hope you find them useful. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line using the contact details below. For those of you who are in the middle of revising for the exams – good luck! You’ll be just fine.
Georgina Chan is registered as a pharmacist in the UK and Hong Kong, she works in the pharmaceutical industry and is a steering committee member of London East, Local Practice Forum
Follow Twitter @georgie_c68