This time last year, I was busy moving house to my new STP training location. Needless to say, I was excited about joining the program and to meet my training department. Not even the extra shots of vaccinations I had to get were going to dampen my spirits. This was to be my first job in the NHS and that itself has always been one of my biggest motivations for applying for the STP. I wanted to develop my scientific knowledge and experience and apply them to benefit patients directly.
STP – Clinical Pharmaceutical Science
Clinical Pharmaceutical Science (CPS) is a less-well known specialism but we play a crucial role in Technical Pharmacy Services and Radiopharmacies. We are not a patient-facing service, but we employ aseptic manufacturing techniques to prepare products (chemotherapy or radiopharmaceuticals) in specially designed cleanrooms for patient administration. Our year group is a small cohort of seven trainees across England.
I began my 1st year with the best intentions: I compiled all my 190-odd competencies into one spreadsheet as an attempt at being organised. I knew I’d have to be organised as I had my 1-year old at home to make matters… interesting. At my Trust’s Aseptic Production Unit, I started to familiarise myself with cleanrooms, aseptic techniques, microbiological monitoring, and quality systems. I realised that many of my colleagues were unaware of what the STP entailed but nevertheless have been more than supportive in my requests for shadowing and learning. I hope the specialism continues to grow in the future and inspire more trainees to work in Pharmacy Technical Services.
The University Study Weeks
In a nutshell, my 1st year has been a real learning curve. I found the first few months of STP to be challenging, especially the initial university modules that required specialist knowledge in aseptics and quality assurance. Now, towards the end of my 1st year, having gained more work experience in my rotations, I am much more confident and comfortable. I certainly enjoyed my study weeks at University and the academic study will be invaluable for my training and practise beyond. Our WhatsApp group has kept us all connected whilst being away from University and has been a great source of support (and entertainment) when tackling assignments.
The Coronavirus Pandemic
Unfortunately, the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic were inescapable. At the peak of lockdown, all but the most urgent cancer treatments and diagnosis scans were deferred and this meant that many Nuclear Medicine scans were cancelled and routine workload at the Radiopharmacy was reduced. Similarly, at the aseptic unit, prescription requests for chemotherapy were also low but there was a growing demand for ready-to-administer medication for coronavirus patients such as morphine, midazolam, and noradrenaline.
I was re-assigned from Radiopharmacy to my Aseptics rotation straightaway. I assisted the QA and Production teams in various ways: in researching solution stability for drugs, by writing standard operating procedures for the new processes, by preparing the new drug products etc. The challenges we faced cannot be under-estimated: demand from clinical ward fluctuated on an hourly and daily basis, national quality guidance was being updated daily, raw materials were becoming difficult to source, and social distancing had to be carefully considered. And most importantly, within the short time frame we had, a safe and quality-assured batch manufacturing process was implemented. This was another learning point for me as I admitted to myself that I am uneasy about making decisions and plans on-the-go, and with very little information to hand. This is a valuable skill for any Clinical Scientist and I realised that I need to work harder at honing this.
I felt privileged to have been able to contribute to the batch production (CIVAS) service and was able to learn a great deal that I might not have had the chance to otherwise. By preparing large batches of infusion bags and syringes for the nurses on the front-line, we were able to save them time and reduce their workload. It was inspiring to see colleagues going above and beyond to provide help where it was needed. I found it to be a very fulfilling and rewarding experience to be able to play my part in treating Coronavirus patients.
Personally, the lockdown months were a stressful and worrying time for me. I was also concerned at COVID-19’s seemingly disproportionate effects on ethnic minorities. The physical and social restrictions can be challenging for families and relationships and I realised how acutely we relied on our support systems for our mental health and wellbeing.
Despite the ongoing overshadowing presence of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m looking forward to continuing my training as planned and building on my 1st year progress. Our University classes have been moved to online learning and I am a little unsure as to how effective distance-learning will be but I must make the most of the tools that have been offered. All placement visits are on hold and there is some uncertainty as to how I will complete my rotations. But for the immediate future, I am focusing on my Radiopharmacy training. Suffice to say, the STP has been nothing like I imagined, but I couldn’t have asked for more and I have enjoyed every minute.
9 thoughts on “STP Reflections | Year 1 | Clinical Pharmaceutical Science”
I’m a recent MPharm graduate who hasn’t had much luck contacting others who are currently doing the STP for clinical pharmaceutical science, for advice, tips and guidance on applications/prep for interviews, although I have referred to this blog for further support, I would be grateful for further guidance or signposting to others that can help!
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Hello! I’ve got in touch with some trainees to see if they will be happy to chat to you. Could you send an email to email@example.com with your email address?
Of course, would be happy to help as best as I can. I’ve shared my email with the blog editors to pass onto you so please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
I am a second year university student studying Medicinal Chemistry and would love some advice on how to best use my time to make me an ideal candidate for clinical pharmaceutical chemistry. Do you have any advice on the best type of experience/placements to gain, as my application to the programme is still 2/3 years away and I really want to use this time to the best of my advantage!
Thank you very much
Thanks for your comment! Anet is happy for you to get in touch so I have passed on her email address to you – I hope that helps. Good luck with the rest of your university studies!
This is John Williams from Pharma Meet 2022
The Organizing Committee is pleased to invite you to participate in the “21st Annual Meet on Pharmaceutical Sciences” to be held on May 10-11, 2022, Yokohama, Japan, on the theme “Advances in Drug Design, Development and New Nanotechnologies – Current and Future Perspectives”.
For more details visit: https://drugs.pharmaceuticalconferences.com/
Not sure if anyone can help but I have no idea where to even begin to find out information about this!
I’m currently half way through my MPharm degree but I’m not sure if I want to do my preregistration year or apply to the STP in CPS. Stressed doesn’t quite cover it! I’m massively interested in the production, chemistry, and drug-drug interactions of TPN (I’m on home TPN myself) and I’m hoping to do my 4th year MPharm research project on something TPN related, so working in aseptics production and quality control would be very interesting, but a worry I have is would I have the scope to progress my career further, like would there be a possibility of doing research/specialising in the chemistry behind aseptics production for example? Or would I be better going down the academic research pathway (PhD/Post Doc etc) and becoming a research scientist within the medical school/school of pharmacy?
I’m based in Newcastle so would be hoping to remain here because of my medical needs 🙂
If you would like to send an email to the blog editors (firstname.lastname@example.org) they will put you in touch with any of us who are doing Pharmaceutical Sciences. We could tell you a bit more about what the STP involves and what it could lead to, so might help you decide. 😊
Thank you so much, I’ll send an email 🙂