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Amber Riesselman, PharmD, BCPS, BCPP

As a clinical faculty member of a college of pharmacy, developing and maintaining a practice site is an extremely rewarding, and at times, challenging opportunity. On many days it feels like two jobs in one. Since our profession can be hectic at times, I would like to share some tips on how to stay on top of your game. While the majority of psychiatric pharmacists do not practice in academia, I believe many practitioners will find the following information applicable to their position.

I began my role as an assistant professor in the summer of 2011. Even though I am technically still a “new practitioner,” I have been fortunate to gain experience in a variety of psychiatric practice sites. I started out working at a state psychiatric hospital and practiced there for two years. Since then, I filled a vacancy in outpatient behavioral health on a military base for the 2013-2014 academic year. I am now part of an inpatient treatment team at the University of Louisville Hospital. I was the first pharmacy faculty member at two of these sites and developed my practice with teams not accustomed to having routine pharmacy involvement. Based on the relationships I have built, I am confident in saying that I have been a valuable member of the psychiatric and pharmacy team(s) at each site. There are a variety of approaches to becoming a valued team member, and here are a few I consider essential to every setting:

Build rapport. This is the first step when building a new practice site or as a new member of an existing site. Make sure to schedule a meeting with pharmacy leadership, the attending physicians and any other key players on the treatment team right away. It is important to find out what your team members’ expectations are and what pharmacy services they need. In addition, you can present the ideas you would like to bring to the site and obtain feedback. Once you get into the swing of things, don’t forget to check back in. If you are new to the setting, schedule a formal meeting for review in 6 months, and then at least once annually. Keeping constant communication will help strengthen relationships. 

Do what you say you will do. I sat in on a session last summer in which the speaker had the audience repeat this phrase several times. “Do what you say you will do.” The phrase is so simple, and yet so powerful. How many times do each of us get frustrated when someone doesn’t follow through? Nobody is perfect, but I am a firm believer in keeping deadlines and following up on tasks when possible. If time gets away from you and you aren’t working with a hard deadline, then simply correspond with an updated timeline. When someone is consistently prompt and makes maximum effort, this demonstrates reliability and dedication to the team and colleagues.

Get organized. I must admit, this can seem like an uphill battle. However, at minimum make sure your schedule is organized. Know where you are scheduled to be, be on time and be prepared. Many of us are student and resident preceptors; keep their schedules organized too. Each learner I have encountered prefers a calendar of activities for their rotation when they begin. Not only can building a calendar for them get you thinking about your own schedule in advance, it can be a tool to keep your learners accountable for their assigned tasks. As I mentioned, academia can seem like multiple jobs in one. Getting organized will help keep you on track for meetings at your site, at the college, with advisees, student organizations, patient care, precepting learners, preparing lectures, studying for board certification, conducting research, coordinating courses, writing articles…

The best part about having a hectic schedule is the variety of opportunities that we encounter.  Whether you practice in academia or not, improving upon each of these areas can yield fruitful outcomes in your practice setting. In conclusion, I believe that getting organized will help ensure that you do what you say you will do, which in turn builds rapport.

*For more information on various psychiatric practice sites see the November 2014 issue of the Mental Health Clinician

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