Pre-registration Manual

3. Starting your training


3.1  Developing a rapport with your tutor

It is vital that you and your tutor establish a good relationship from the start. It is important to find out what each other’s expectations are, plan the training period ahead and clarify both your roles. You should have a meeting as soon as possible, preferably by the end of the first week, to make sure there are no misconceptions about your training.

It is also vital that you both keep up regular and frequent communication throughout your training. We recommend a weekly or fortnightly meeting to reflect on your progress and review your objectives. It is good practice to document and agree the key points discussed at these meetings so that you can look back on the notes later.

3.2  Signing a learning contract form

At the start of a new training arrangement between you and your tutor, you must both commit fully to the training period. You and your tutor confirm this commitment by agreeing the learning contract as part of your pre-registration training application. (You will also find it as part of the change of training details form. If you use the form to tell us about a change of tutor, you and your new tutor should sign a new learning contract.) 

A learning contract is not a contract of employment, but an agreement by both parties to commit to the provision and receiving of training.

3.3  Assessing a baseline level of competence

At the beginning of a new placement, you and your tutor should discuss your present level of competence. This will help identify your learning and development needs and how they can be met at key points in your training. This should happen at the start of your pre-registration year, or when you move to another placement (whether this move was planned or not).

To be judged as competent against any of the performance standards at this stage, you need supporting evidence – for example, a portfolio from previous work experience or from previous pre-registration training. The following table sets out what we mean by ‘competent’.

Some trainees start here

Some trainees start here

Need to be at least here to register

Most experienced pharmacists are here

Subconsciously incompetent

Consciously incompetent

Consciously competent

Subconsciously competent


They are unaware of their own development needs and limitations

They are aware of their need to develop, but if they are too ‘conscious’ they may be very lacking in confidence

They are able, but newly developed skills may need lots of thought and lead to slow performance


Able, confident and up to speed, but there is a danger of complacency – doing things on ‘automatic pilot’


3.4 Developing an outline training plan

Your training site should have a standard structured training plan, which it produced as part of being approved by us. You and your tutor should review this training plan together and produce a tailored outline for your own training year. This will make sure that everything can be covered in the time available.

Ideally, your plan should be a week-by-week one which includes dates for your quarterly progress reviews, annual leave and training days. It should also show which area of practice will be the focus of any given week, either on or off site.

Your plan should provide the scope of practice and the appropriate supervision to allow you to achieve all the performance standards and learning outcomes in section 10 of the standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists. These should be linked to all the weekly activities in the plan.

3.5 Setting SMART objectives

Once your outline plan has been developed, it is important to set some short-term goals for the weeks to come. These should ideally take the form of SMART objectives, which means they are:

Specific – to what you want to achieve

Measurable – so you can tell whether you have met the objective

Achievable – with the resources you have

Realistic – and relevant to what you need to achieve

Timed – to give a date by which the objective should be achieved.


Here are some examples of SMART learning objectives:

“By the end of my fourth week in the dispensary, I aim to have completed a continuous log of 200 dispensed items without any errors”

“While on my two-week hospital placement, I aim to take an accurate medication history from three different patients, under the supervision of a pharmacist, using the resources available”

“I plan to organise a health promotion event within the local community on national No Smoking Day, and aim to provide smoking cessation advice to at least 5 active smokers”

“By the end of this week, I aim to have learnt about 5 significant drug interactions and what recommendations, if any, I should make to the prescriber”.