Introduction

 

WelcomeImage-1 to my blog where I am recording my experiences as an international graduate in pharmacy who has returned home to Canada to practice…..so I thought. My aim here is to educate pharmacists/graduates who are qualified overseas on my personal experiences of pharmacy here, specifically in Ontario. Just a quick background information, I was born and raised in Canada and I decided to do my pharmacy degree at an university overseas in an English-speaking western country. I have now graduated and currently going through the “lovely” process of being registered in Ontario.

My goal in this blog is to help students make informed decisions and understand the current condition of pharmacy in Canada from the point of view of an international student hopefully save you a lot of stress and possibly money!

 

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Studentship

So the OCP has finally granted you studentship status and you can finally start your training and your amazing career right? WRONG!!!!!

Unfortunately pharmacies in Ontario (private and corporations) no longer include studentships (they only accept internships) in their budget so it is extremely difficult to find a pharmacy to take you on. Even if you offer to do it for free you will still find yourself searching many months down the road. Also, you have to compete with graduates from both Toronto and Waterloo who grab positions everywhere including both rural and city areas. Pharmacies also prefer graduates from these two universities, followed by universities from the rest of Canada, then the US and finally other English countries such as England, Australia and New Zealand. If you didn’t get your degree from one of these countries then your chances are even slimmer. I am in no way suggesting your degree is inferior but I literally was asked when I applied to pharmacies where I did my degree and trust me if you didn’t get it from Ontario or other Canadian provinces/territories be prepared to be rejected over and over again. Finally, it’s enough that you have to compete with the Toronto graduates in spring when they graduate but also be aware the Waterloo graduates graduate at various times of the year so basically the competition is all year round.

Another major factor to consider is the role of pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy technicians are also regulated by the OCP and they require preceptors too so you will also find in many instances that when you contact the pharmacy that the pharmacist is too busy to take you on because they are training the pharmacy technicians. Due to the economy, pharmacies have tight budgets and pharmacy technicians can do the dispensing duties of a pharmacist so it is cheaper to hire more pharmacy techs than hire pharmacists. So you’ll find yourself competing with the pharmacy techs even after you get your license in Ontario.

Good luck to you all!

Registration as a Student in Ontario

So you have completed all the PEBC exams and think the hard part is over? All your worries are over and you can move on with your life and start your ‘amazing’ Canadian pharmacy career? WRONG!!!!

If you failed one of the qualifying exams (not sure about the evaluation exam) then you will be required by the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP) to undertake the international pharmacy graduate program (IPG) at the University of Toronto. This will require months of more university courses, tuition, rent in Toronto and etc. It definitely is not worth the effort, stress and money especially considering a pharmacy career in Ontario has gone downhill recently. If you can do something else with your life and be happy, get out while you still can! I can’t give much advice in this instance as I did not fail any of my exams (thank goodness!) but whilst I waited for my marks and contemplated what I would do if I failed, I knew I wouldn’t do the IPG even if that meant leaving pharmacy for good…it’s just not worth it, life is too short.

If you are like me and passed all your exams on the first attempt then it’s a walk in the park from here and you will start your studentship shortly……WRONG!!!

You still have to convince the OCP that you don’t need to do the IPG and this takes time. First of all, you have to register as a student by filling out more forms and paying the fees. EVERYONE needs to prove their English proficiency even if you’re like me and was born and grew up in Ontario and did my pharmacy degree in an English speaking country. You’ll have  to contact the OCP and find out how you can fulfill this requirement. Most people do the IELTS but the OCP website lists several acceptable English exams and the required mark….great fun and more money.

If your application for registration as a student has been processed and accepted, the next step is trying to convince the OCP that you don’t need to take IPG. Good Luck!

Qualifying Exam – Oral Exam

Well here we are, the lastFX Photo Studio_image exam of the PEBC but not the last exam before registration. Oral exams are a little difficult for some people to comprehend how to study for. First of all, if you have been studying for the multiple choice exam then you have all ready been studying for the oral exam, the information is the same. Which is why I advised people to study the TC even before the evaluation exam. Now specifically for the oral exam, your main reference should be the Patient Self-Care, you should at least read it over once. The other important thing is to practice counseling by picking a topic from each of the chapters of the Patient Self Care…..it might mean the difference between a pass and a fail. In the actual stations of the oral exam, they do provide you with the CPS. A really good idea would be for you to get a copy and learn how to use it. DO NOT study the material inside, that would be crazy and you don’t have the time. The key is to learn how to use it so that you’re not stressed with only 7 minutes trying to figure out how to use this reference during the actual exam. Also, the PEBC has examples of stations on their website where you can actually watch an example of a doctor and patient station and others. I also noticed some facebook pages that post example videos too.

Look I’m not going to sugar coat it, the actual exam is extremely stressful. You will get several stations where you don’t know the answer and the time is running out and there is nothing else left to do but admit you simply do not know the answer. You will also get patients and doctors who are difficult to work with as some of them give you attitude, just keep calm and get through it. Obviously there is no published pass mark but from my personal experience and what I heard others say, if you feel that you did well on half of the stations then you probably did ok.

After the exam, as you know, you will have to wait for about a month until results are out. In that time, relax and don’t think about the exam. Stressing yourself over results you won’t get until 4 weeks is not only unhealthy but a waste of time. You can take the time to get familiarized with the registration board of your province and start getting ready for that if you really want to be productive.

Qualifying Exam – Multiple Choice

FX Photo Studio_imageAfter the evaluation exam, I spent a few weeks doing anything but studying because I literally wasted half a year just studying for that exam. However, after lots of researching before the evaluation exam, I realized the hardest exam was yet to come so I organized my plan of attack for both the qualifying exams in November. Now here we encounter some idiots who decide to do only one exam at a time and wait for the next set of qualifying exams to do the other. Having passed all the PEBC exams on the first attempt and knowing what comes afterwards, it is absolutely a stupid decision to do this when the next set of exams is about SEVEN MONTHS AWAY! Remember in university during exam time when you would have say 7 exams in 2 weeks? If you are mentally unable to do 2 exams in one week then stop right here, save yourself a life of stress and find something else to do. You still have to do the Jurisprudence exam afterwards and it takes time to find an internship and to get your license….save yourself the time!

Now in the post concerning the evaluation exam, I mentioned studying the Therapeutic Choices (TC). The reason for this is not only for studying for the evaluation exam but also help prepare in advance for the qualifying exams which are much harder. Any wise person will heed my advice and make notes on each chapter of the TC whilst studying for evaluation exam, even if you don’t have enough time to finish them, you can finish the remaining notes after the evaluation exam. The TC is your BIBLE for the written qualifying exam, know it from front to back. The reason for making notes for each chapter is if you have seen the book yet….it is HUGE. Making notes will condense it and make studying it a lot easier and efficient. I read the TC once over, made notes on it and read over the notes three times.

Now again we encounter idiots who waste over thousands of dollars attending preparatory courses for the qualifying exams. Let me remind you again that if you attended a proper pharmacy program you would have learned all the information during your degree, if you need to waste thousands of dollars to help you remember some or all of that information then you are just setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment. Besides knowing the TC from front to back, there are lots of cheap pharmacy review text books online with pages of practice questions and case studies. I also found heaps of questions online and there are facebook pages dedicated to uploading practice questions every day. This is all you need to do(besides hardcore studying for the next 3 months) and you will save yourself lots of money! Most people who have taken these course have said they are a waste of money….listen to them!

Now the written exam is probably going to be the hardest exam you have ever written which is why they give you almost 4 hours to write it on each day. It is essential that you get a good nights rest, don’t stay up all night studying, if you haven’t learned the information by this stage you never will. The exam is physically and mentally exhausting so make sure you bring some acetaminophen and water…you will need it. Finally, you will need to work fast, it’s not like the evaluation exam where a lot of people are done early, most people take the whole duration of the exam to complete it. There are lots of case studies with long questions so don’t waste any time. If you don’t know the answer, put a star beside it and move on.

Finally, not to put any more stress and pressure on you but dot NOT procrastinate especially those of you who want to get registered in Ontario. If  you haven’t by now, go over the registration section on the website of the Ontario College of Pharmacists and you will discover that if you fail any of the exams, they will make you take courses at the University of Toronto for several months if you are an international graduate…..which will cost you much more time and money. Although this is the hardest exam, the hard part isn’t over and much more pain and obstacles are yet to come. Good luck to you all, you will need it!

Evaluation Exam

FX Photo Studio_imageThis is the first exam international students must write. It is a painful 2-day exam with a total of 300 multiple choice questions. The actual exam is not so much the most difficult part but rather the studying. Since the exam covers every topic you’ve learned during the 4 years of degree, you are rushed to cover all the topics. PEBC lists all the references for this exam but do they  honestly think  that we have all the time in world to read all those references? Personally I just bought a couple of cheap pharmacy review text books, and read the TC. But the icing on the cake was spending half a year (the exam is only offered in July and January) studying all this jargon  I already learned in university and that I will never use  again such as the partition coefficient, ionization, HLB and etc. In fact right after I finished on the last day of the exam, I forgot it all and never did use it again. Gee thank you PEBC, I really enjoyed wasting $515 on an exam that is as useful as my old pharmaceutical science textbook which I can’t get rid of because it’s USELESS.

Now before any of you naive little grasshoppers try to come up with some reason for writing a big ass waste of a time, let me tell you that nobody cares if you pass the exam even on the first try, employers don’t care and it wont give you that competitive edge….sorry been there and done that. Also, all you idiots out there who spend from hundreds to thousands of dollars on preparation courses are morons. The exam topics were covered during your 4 year degrees and yes most of us forget it but that’s why there are cheap pharmacy review books and lots of practice questions you can download from the internet for free! For any of you out there who has failed this exam my one and only advice for you is get out while you still can, because it gets, wait for it,………even HARDER!

Document Evalution

FX Photo Studio_imageLet me just start off by saying this is probably the easiest step in Canadian registration. You just fill out the forms, send your documents (degree certificate, transcript, passport photos etc) and pay the fee of about 500 something dollars. To be fair, document evaluation fee is cheaper compared to other countries….there’s one positive. The downside is that it takes a long time for them to process your application and in the end they are very vague if your application is ok. If you are stressed at this point then heed my warning, it gets a lot worse.