WHY GO ON A PHARMACY ELECTIVE ABROAD?
Our pharmacy placements abroad present you with the opportunity to get clinical experience in an under-resourced, but fast-paced hospital in the developing world. The opportunity also gives your CV a huge boost, helping you land your dream job.
You can also tailor your placement such that you spend time where your interests lie, like main hospital pharmacies or more specialised satellite pharmacies in departments like oncology or A&E. The systems, the patients — even some of the drugs themselves may be totally unfamiliar to you.
On a pharmacy elective abroad, you could learn how stock is ordered and managed without the aid of digital systems, see unfamiliar (sometimes unbranded) drugs, and find out what happens during drug shortages.
THE CLINICAL EXPERIENCE
While overseas, you'll quickly realise that we take things for granted in the UK. For example, in some of our destinations where healthcare isn’t free, a £30 bottle of Albumin is the equivalent of up to one fifth of the local monthly salary.
Some things you might observe include:
- Massive over-prescription of antibiotics by UK standards
- Unusual stock including snake and insect anti-venoms
- Breaking of capsules and crushing of tablets
- Traditional herbal medicine
You will also see major differences in the fundamentals of pharmacy too. For example, many of our destinations have inpatient pharmacies where patients’ family members have to pay for drugs and then hand-deliver them to the patient.
Your hospital placement runs Monday to Friday, leaving your evenings and weekends free to explore the destination you’ve chosen.
The service you get with us is end-to-end. That means we will support you before, during and even after your trip.
The service covers all bases, taking the stress out of planning a pharmacy placement abroad.
Arrivals are every Sunday, 52 weeks of the year (you can travel whenever suits you), and durations start from one week.
YOU GET A ONE-TO-ONE SERVICE THAT INCLUDES:
- A tailored overseas elective in your choice of departments
- Comprehensive pre-trip preparation
- Accommodation in a private, catered house
- A 24/7 in-country team to support you
- Airport pickup
Your clinical placement takes precedence on this trip. But — whether you prefer solo or group travel — weekend trips will be a massive highlight.
You'll make lots of like-minded friends in the Work the World house. And you'll all go on big weekend trips together — from trekking through the Himalayas to whitewater rafting down the Zambezi. Whether you’re travelling solo or as a group, this is your chance to do something big before you graduate into the working world.
WHERE DO I START?
Talk to us and we’ll answer all your questions about our pharmacy opportunities abroad, help you narrow in on a destination, and secure your place when you’re ready.
Get in touch using the short enquiry form at the bottom of this page.
Indonesia - Yogyakarta
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It might surprise you to learn that in Indonesia, there’s only one pharmacist per 20,000 patients compared with 18 pharmacists per 20,000 patients in the UK. This means local pharmacists have to work even harder to help patients — something you’ll see firsthand in our partner hospital. But it’s not just a lack of pharmacists — drugs are scarce too. Some have limited stocks and others (including basic analgesics) are hard to get hold of. And when medicines are available, they’re expensive. A month’s worth of branded diabetes medication might cost more than eight days worth of the local average wage. On placement here you’ll see impact all of this has on both local pharmacists and patients.
Vietnam - Hue
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On your pharmacy placement in Hue, you’ll see just how much of an impact a lack of funding has on drug supplies. Some medicines have limited stocks and others are impossible to obtain, even basic analgesics that we take for granted in the UK. There isn’t much local pharmacists can do about this, other than prescribe less effective alternatives, or nothing at all — not good news if you’re a patient. Vietnamese traditional medicine aims to fill some of the gaps, so you’ll see how traditional approaches are used alongside the more contemporary medicines you’re used to in the UK.
Zambia - Lusaka
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Aiming to create a universal healthcare system, the Zambian government covers the cost of antiretrovirals, basic paediatric medications, and cancer drugs. But, most prescriptions cost money, often leaving patients (or their families) in a difficult financial position. There are a lack of pharmacists here too, and some drug supplies are limited thanks to a lack of funding. But even so, on your pharmacy placement in Lusaka, you’ll see that local pharmacists fight to maintain standards that are actually quite similar to those found in NHS hospitals in the UK.
Cambodia - Phnom Penh
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On your pharmacy elective placement in Phnom Penh, you’ll see that the system works in a different way than it does in the UK. While you’re in the dispensary, you’ll see patients’ families lining up to collect medication ready to deliver it to their loved ones. The pharmacy here has a list of essential medications that the government provides, but you’ll see that in reality, there are very few of the required bottles on the shelves. You may even see families giving patients drugs they had no choice but to buy from the private sector. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Phnom Penh.
Ghana - Takoradi
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On your pharmacy placement in Takoradi, you’ll spend time in a pharmacy department that supplies all medication to an entire regional hospital. The department even has its own small-scale drug manufacturing facilities to keep up with the demand. Life in the dispensary is very different from the UK. Resources are limited, and labeling involves writing directions (by hand) directly onto medicine boxes. There is no database to check for drug interactions, so this all done manually. You can also see how traditional herbal medicine is integrated into some of the more modern pharmaceutical solutions. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Takoradi.
Peru - Arequipa
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On a pharmacy placement abroad in Arequipa, you have the chance to get experience in ‘satellite pharmacies’ that serve all the different hospital departments. That said, the hospital has a big focus on oncology, as it’s home to Southern Peru’s biggest oncology department. You might even get the chance to assist in the ‘clean room’ where cytostatic medications are reconstituted and sterilised, ready for use on patients. The hospital operates under the SIS system, which delivers healthcare to everyone, even to patients who can’t afford it. When you consider that up to 600 prescriptions are processed here each day, this is quite a feat. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Arequipa.
Nepal - Pokhara
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On your pharmacy elective placement in Pokhara, it will come as no surprise that pharmacies here suffer from a serious resource problem. Even so, you’ll spend time in two relatively well-stocked dispensaries. Unlike pharmacies in the UK, our partner hospital even stocks strains of anti-venom in case of life threatening insect and snake bites. The hospital also has a dedicated pharmacovigilance unit that monitors and helps avert side effects that some drugs produce. You’ll also pick up some surprising knowledge, like the fact that with as little as 72 hours of training, anyone can open an independent pharmacy in Nepal. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Pokhara.
Nepal - Kathmandu
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Modern pharmacy is a relatively new concept in Nepal and local people rely much more on ayurveda or ‘tree medicine’. There are ayurveda practitioners all over the country, and they use concoctions of herbs, and ancient Hindu healing prayers to treat their patients. You’ll see that some patients are reluctant to give modern pharmacy a try, but local pharmacists do what they can to show patients just how effective drugs can be. Seeing the contrast between allopathic and homeopathic will open your eyes to the challenges faced by traditional and nontraditional healthcare professionals. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Kathmandu.
Philippines - Iloilo
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If you do your pharmacy placement in Iloilo, you’ll be rewarded with insight into a unique system completely different from the NHS. This is a specialised placement and you can rotate through six separate pharmacy outlets, gaining practical experience in each. There’s a real lack of digital equipment right across the hospital. For the pharmacy department (and for you), that means writing documentation by hand. You’ll also see just how creative and resourceful local staff have to be as they cater to hundreds of prescriptions everyday with minimal resources. What’s more, family members have to come to the pharmacy to buy all medications, fluids, needles and other devices before they can be used on patients. Read stories from those who’ve already travelled with us to Iloilo.
"Meeting the pharmacy team was fantastic as they were just as happy to see me as I was to see them."
Michael Walker, Keele University 2019Read more
"Their ‘aseptic suite’ was an incubator from the NICU modified to have laminar flow"
Mared Foulkes, Cardiff University 2019Read more
"I learnt the whole process on how to treat patients presenting with snake bites"
Paulina Paksaite, University of Bath 2019Read more
"During the month I spent in Pokhara, I made unforgettable memories with amazing students from all over the world."
Jack Gilbert, Robert Gordon University 2018Read more
"It was everything I imagined the experience to be and more."
Cassie Wong, University of Sydney 2018Read more
What is a pharmacy elective?
A pharmacy elective is a clinical placement that pharmacy students undertake as part of their degree. Every year, more and more pharmacy students are doing their pharmacy electives overseas. To create your own customised pharmacy elective, get in touch with us today.
How long is a pharmacy elective?
A pharmacy elective is as long as you want it to be. Our minimum placement duration is 2 weeks, but students typically travel on their pharmacy electives for 4 weeks. There is no upper limit to how long you can travel for.
What are the most popular countries for pharmacy electives?
Our most popular countries for pharmacy electives are (in no particular order):
5. The Philippines
7. Sri Lanka
What are the benefits of a pharmacy elective?
The benefits of a pharmacy elective include:
- Expanding your clinical knowledge and skill set
- Becoming more confident, independent and resourceful
- Making yourself more attractive to employers
- Doing some proper travelling
- Building your personal and professional network
- Sharpening your language and communication skills
- Renewing your perspective on the NHS
What will I see on an overseas pharmacy elective?
You will see things like:
- Reconstitution of chemotherapy drugs
- Patients’ families purchasing and delivering medicines
- Traditional herbal medicine integrated into local healthcare systems
- Medication for conditions malaria and leprosy
- Manual (pen and paper) stock systems