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Getting Up to Speed as a Traveling Pharmacist (Part One)

Posted on: October 19, 2021

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Bryan Mayfield

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This was the morning of the first day of my very first travel assignment. Am I ready? Will I be able to learn what I need to do quickly? I do not want to slow the staff down. I want to step in and run things just as smoothly as their permanent pharmacist would.

I have written previously about how the ability to get up to speed quickly is a key skill for pharmacists who want to excel in their roles. In this article, I will discuss a few tips on how exactly to accomplish this.

The Process Begins Before the Assignment Starts

“Fail to plan and you plan to fail.” That is a quote that I have heard often since I was an undergrad, and it always seems to ring true. Prior preparation is essential when taking on travel assignments. This involves knowing what time to wake up, leaving enough time to eat breakfast, how long it will take to travel to the facility from the hotel, and understanding traffic patterns to the best of your ability.

In addition to these basic logistical concerns, it is also imperative to learn as much as possible about the actual work associated with an assignment as far in advance as possible. This can include things like:

  • Figuring out what computer systems the organization uses and if you are familiar with them
  • Being sure to get all necessary login credentials, passwords, keys, etc. as early as possible
  • Determining any security requirements

Type(s) and Volume

If it is a community pharmacy, for example, it would be important to know if they do a significant amount of compounding or how many prescriptions they usually fill a day. For a hospital pharmacy, some important factors are the number of beds in the hospital, or if you will be assigned to a certain area, or decentralized to a floor.

Some other things that could be useful are the hours the facility is open (and if you are expected to arrive early or stay late), the most prevalent language spoken/read by the patient population, or any unique requirements such as dress code or lunch rules (some sites did not allow lunch boxes/bags that weren’t clear or had a designated place for them to prevent diversion).

Many ways exist to collect this information including information provided by the staffing agency, or good, old-fashioned internet research. However, I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn about an upcoming assignment is to talk to others that have completed an assignment at the same site. This isn’t always possible, but, when it is, it can be extremely helpful.

The final thing to do in advance of an assignment is to get a clear set of expectations from your staffing agency and/or leadership at the site. Knowing exactly what is expected of you before you arrive can quell much of the anxiety often associated with starting a new assignment.

In the second part of this series, I will discuss what you need to do once the assignment has started to ensure that you keep up your momentum and continue getting up to speed quickly.

Ready to begin your journey into traveling healthcare? Contact the Barton Healthcare Staffing team today to get started!

Bryan Mayfield
About Bryan Mayfield

Bryan is a practicing pharmacist based in Dallas, Texas. He received a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2013. He is board certified in geriatric pharmacy and has additional certifications in medication therapy management, pharmacy-based immunization delivery, and community pharmacy-based point of care testing. He is also the principal writer at Kepney Medical Writing, a medical communications firm. More of his writing can be found at