An investigation into pharmacist professional formation

Student thesis: Doctor of Education


In the professional formation of pharmacists, participation in real-life professional practice occurs mostly in pre-registration training, in the year after completion of the four-year undergraduate MPharm course. As such, development of professional identity and practice are likely to happen predominantly in the pre-registration year. The study is conducted against a background of a sparsity of knowledge about professional formation in pharmacy, particularly in the pre-registration year.The aim of this study is to investigate the professional formation of pharmacy graduates in the pre-registration year. The research questions address what professional practice the graduate engages in during the pre-registration year, how they perceive their own identity and the reasons for this. Understanding professional formation requires a focus on the interplay between agency and structure. As such, Bourdieu's conceptual tools are deployed to explore individual agency and relationships between key players, in a process named becoming a pharmacist. This process is further conceptualised as achieving a feel for the game in which recognising and repositioning in regard to hysteresis is central to success. Via this conceptualisation, Bourdieu's thinking tools are used to describe and understand becoming a pharmacist, shaping the study through their use to inform data collection, analysis and interpretation.Four community pharmacy pre-registration trainees working in the north-west of England were recruited to take part. A case study methodology was chosen to retain the holistic characteristics of real-life events, with qualitative methods used to collect data. Portraiture was chosen as a method of presenting and describing the study's findings. Interview transcripts, observational data, self-selected records from trainee portfolios and researcher field notes were used to construct the portraits. Each portrait was subjected to a critical analysis to understand each trainee's unique experience using the lens of Bourdieu's conceptual thinking tools. A cross portrait analysis was then additionally carried out using key theories of identity and professional practice as well as Bourdieu's conceptual tools. Key findings included that identity and practice were strongly influenced by cultural capital and the existence of a dyadic relationship with the pharmacist tutor. Legal and corporate restrictions on practice constrained the development of professional expertise, which contributed to a period of acute stress experienced immediately upon qualification. The identification of practices of assertion and practices of deference as a way to describe trainee practice and identity was proposed and explored. Conclusions include that practices of assertion and deference can be useful in allowing researchers to unpack the bundles of influences on identity and practice. Through its findings, the study therefore makes a contribution to what is known about professional formation in pharmacy but also more broadly through the use of Bourdieu's conceptual tools to reveal complex relationships between structure and agency.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCarlo Raffo (Supervisor) & Helen Gunter (Supervisor)


  • Professional identity
  • Pharmacy education

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