Graduates 2017: Charlotte’s story

This month we have a series of blogs from young people who are weeks away from graduating and are about to enter the world of work. In these blogs, the graduates will be discussing how university prepared them for their future careers. Our fifth blog in the series is from Charlotte Rigden, who is about to graduate from Robert Gordon University with a degree in Master of Pharmacy with Merit. Charlotte will start work as a pre-registration pharmacist at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in July.

On June 25th 2013, I was on holiday in Edinburgh, with no idea that my life was about to change. I remember walking along Princes Street when I got the notification that my UCAS application had been updated, and the panic as I couldn’t get enough internet signal to find out what it said.

Two months previously, I submitted an application to study Pharmacy at Robert Gordon University. I’d always been really interested in healthcare, but the lack of experience held me back, so I found work in a pharmacy. I wanted to prove to myself that this was something I could do, and thanks to a really supportive pharmacist colleague I realised, what do I have to lose?  So I sent in my application form and crossed my fingers – I didn’t really believed I would be accepted.

Fast forward four years and next month I will be graduating with a Master of Pharmacy with Merit, and starting a new chapter as a pre-registration pharmacist in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. But it’s not just the degree that I’m taking away as I move to my next challenge; I gained a sense of purpose, and confidence in my abilities. I’m also taking away recognition for my leadership and dedication, having won the Pharmacist of the Future award for Scotland in 2017.

Right from the start the importance of soft skills was emphasised. Group work and presentations taught me to use the strengths of everyone in the group to achieve the best outcome, and to pick up visual cues to help me understand what may be going unsaid. Pharmacist are medicine experts, but there is far more to being a good pharmacist than simply knowing about medicines: if you can’t create relationships with patients, it’s hard to do anything. How do you know what is important to that person if you don’t understand where they are coming from? RGU kept me on my toes with not only simulated patients, but also by sending me out into the real world to learn from real ones. Every session brought something new and different, I had to learn how to process the information quickly and respond appropriately, while simultaneously developing my professional identity.

Another important aspect of university is what you learn outside of classes. I went into university worried about fitting in, but left as the president of two societies. To be able to run the societies successfully, I had to be driven, flexible, and able to respond to the unexpected with strength. In my time as president, both societies were awarded the Society of the Year award, while I received multiple personal awards culminating in the award of a Full Scarlet, the highest award conferred by my university.

I’ve learned a huge amount about the pharmacy profession, but even more about myself. I have pushed myself to be the very best I can. I’ve made friends for a lifetime, and gained professional contacts. There is still so much work to come and it isn’t going to be easy, but I have been given the tools I need and I know I’m ready for the challenges I will face.


Other blogs in this series:

Rebecca’s story

Alex’s story

Kirsty’s story

Eilidh’s story