Sera McNutt, BS, PharmD, BCPP
CPNP Resident and New Practitioner Committee Member
Clinical Pharmacy Specialist – Psychiatry
Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center
Starting a new position can be intimidating—especially if you will be the only psychiatric pharmacist at your institution. With a little bit of planning, and some networking, you won’t be as alone as you may think! Here are a few tips to make the best of your solo venture.
New ideas for improving patient safety, practice efficiency, and expanding your scope of practice come from many different places. Commonly, ideas emerge from noting which of your day-to-day processes can be improved. Experientially, this method worked best when I had psych colleagues to discuss ideas with. While you may not have someone in your office, there is an entire listserv of pharmacists ready to assist! Not only are CPNP listservs an excellent resource if you have a topic that you’d like input on, but perusing the daily questions and corresponding answers can do a lot to generate new ideas. Consider if the topics being discussed could be beneficial at your site of practice, and if so, use the thread to glean new ideas.
Another aspect to applying new ideas is getting buy-in from organizational leadership, who may not be experts in psychiatry. Conduct thorough background research and be prepared to explain the need for your project from the ground-up. Recruitment of facility psychiatry providers to the project can aid with bringing your goals to fruition.
I keep my PGY2 RPD and RPC on speed dial! For difficult cases, it can be helpful to get perspectives from those with more experience or who work with a certain population more often than you do. These mentors can also be great resources for reviewing materials you have prepared in your position that could use a second set of eyes.
Equally valuable is becoming a mentor yourself. Reach out to local schools of pharmacy to ask about being a preceptor and volunteer to allow residents on your rotation. Precepting helps to keep me on my toes clinically—sometimes learners ask questions that I don’t know the answer to, giving me the opportunity to expand my knowledge while facilitating their learning experience. Also, all of my learners complete a journal club and patient case presentation on a topic of interest to help me continue to stay up to date on current literature and guidelines.
If you are reading this, you have already a part of your greatest psychiatric pharmacy resource: CPNP! I highly recommend keeping your membership active at all times. From clinical resources, to member directories, newsletters, meetings, and beyond—CPNP is an invaluable resource to any psychiatric pharmacist—especially one who works solo.
My most valuable experiences within CPNP have come from joining a committee. Being on a national committee is great from a professional development standpoint and helps to keep your network growing. National committees provide the opportunity to hear perspectives from pharmacists practicing all over the country in a variety of settings. As someone who is socially awkward, I know this can feel intimidating. But it’s truly great! Just put yourself out there. Even if you don’t have much to add at first, eventually a topic will come up that you can contribute to. In the days of Zoom calls—your name or face on the screen is good exposure so colleagues can start recognizing you.
Local organizations are also a great resource to network with other pharmacists in your geographic area. This is especially helpful if you moved to a new location in your new position. Again, just reach out and start showing up! In my experience, participants in organizations are very welcoming to new members who want to get involved.
Arrange for coverage when you have time off
Make an effort to consistently update your career goals. You might be surprised how much they grow and change.
Create educational materials for non-psych providers (pharmacists and practitioners)
Working as the only psychiatric pharmacist can be daunting. However, with the right resources and a strong network of colleagues, there is a lot of opportunity for personal and career growth.