International Healthcare Experience in Pharmacy: London

“Big Ben,” the famous clock tower attached to the Palace of Westminster.

My STEP Project involved traveling to London, England with the OSU College of Pharmacy for one week. We visited cultural sites as well as sites of pharmacy practice to compare life and pharmacy in England with our lives and understanding of pharmacy in the United States. Also, during this process, I was able to get to know faculty and other students in the College of Pharmacy.

During my STEP project, I learned a lot about what I am capable of, as well as what pharmacists in the United Kingdom can do and how they can expand their duties to make up for the dearth of doctors that the health system is currently facing. Through few experiences from the trip, I found that I am more independent and better at solving problems than I thought. Also, as the group visited different sites of pharmacy practice, I learned about the integral roles that pharmacists play in the health system and how important political activism is in order to keep and expand these roles – in the United States as well as the UK.

Throughout the week, my roommate and I became very comfortable with London’s underground subway system, or the “Tube” as it is affectionately called by its passengers. At first, I was very worried about getting lost or confused in the system because my sense of direction is not very good, but by the end of the week, we were experts at using it! This showed me that with a little bit of work and practice, I can be successful at something that made me nervous and that sometimes things are much more user-friendly than we think.

Another experience that allowed me to work on my independence was when I found out that all of my twenty-pound notes were expired when trying to pay for admission to the Globe Theatre. I had to exchange them for new notes at the Bank of England. This was scary at first, but I researched where the Bank of England was and how to exchange my notes, and the next day I went and exchanged them. Taking a problem and figuring out how to solve it in an unfamiliar place showed me that I am a lot more resourceful than I thought I was, and I feel much more capable of being independent than before the trip.

The headquarters of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in London.

In terms of my understanding of pharmacy changing, the visit to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society really opened my eyes about the political activism side of being a professional. During this trip, the speaker laid out how pharmacists got to the level of respect and responsibility that they have, and a lot of it was through political change. I realized that there is a lot of political work to be done in the United States surrounding pharmacy. For example, achieving provider status is a legislative change that will allow pharmacists to be billed in the same way that doctors are, allowing part of their salaries to be paid by insurance companies instead of solely by hospitals.

The sign outside of the Greenlight Pharmacy, the community pharmacy that we visited.

This will allow hospitals to hire more pharmacists, and the pharmacists will be able to take on more roles and serve patients in many more ways like they do in the United Kingdom. There are many more pharmacists in the United Kingdom with unique patient-serving roles, like working in their own clinics and in doctor’s offices or offering smoking cessation and travel planning services within community pharmacies. This experience really emphasized that political participation is very important, and extends past just voting in elections. It’s important to be informed about and involved in the issues that are important to you and your career. Hearing this speaker has definitely made me pay more attention to current events locally, nationally, and around the world.

These changes and realizations are important in my life because I want to be an involved, empathetic and helpful citizen in the world. Realizing my own independence and gaining confidence will allow me to be more successful in accomplishing this goal. I think that traveling and connecting with people who live very different lives than mine is a good method to become more open-minded, and I would like to travel more in the future.

In addition, I want to be a pharmacist, and learning the components of pharmacy that work well in other systems can help to improve the system in the United States. It reminds me that I am a part of the bigger whole and that what I will be doing in my day-to-day work is very important and helpful to patients. Also, in this time of political change and activism (and that of years to come), it is important to know what pharmacists should be working towards so that they can prepare, organize and rally to achieve roles that allow them to help the most patients.

The study abroad group outside of the University of London School of Pharmacy.


One thought on “International Healthcare Experience in Pharmacy: London

  1. It seemed as if you really learned about yourself, career goals, political wants, and personal independence. This trip truly was molded around your major and will have life long career impacts.

    I am glad to hear that your project was so influential on your life as well as your academic career. I hope you are able to continue to learn and grow from this experience.

    I would challenge you to continue to step out of your culturally comfort zone more often. It seems as if you learned much by engaging with the people in those countries. Continue to learn more about other countries health care systems and what you can bring back to your studies.

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