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

Posted on: October 26, 2021

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Bryan Mayfield

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In the first part of this series, I discussed what should be done prior to starting a new assignment to ensure you get up to speed quickly. In this second installment, I will cover the important things to do once the assignment has started.

Become a Sponge

During your first few days at your new assignment, soak up as much information as possible about the organization and their unique processes. Like Socrates, assume you know nothing. No matter how much experience you have practicing in similar settings, the first few days at a new site is not the time to try to impose your way of doing things on the staff. Instead, focus on learning how the staff prefers to do things.

Consider Going in Early and Maybe Staying Late

For me, coming in early was always a non-negotiable. Even if I already felt that I had a good grasp on how to do things, it still gave me a solid head start on the day and set me up for success. When you are beginning a new assignment, that extra time at the beginning of a shift can be extremely beneficial.

When it comes to staying late, I say “maybe” because depending on the specific assignment and your performance, it may or may not be necessary. Personally, I always liked to stay a little late, just to be absolutely sure I had taken care of everything I was responsible for during a given shift. In cases where I was being relieved by another pharmacist, this was especially important because I wanted to make sure they were aware of any ongoing issues or outstanding tasks.

Ultimately the decision to do either of these is optional. However, I strongly recommend considering either option.

Ask Questions

There are no stupid questions. It is vitally important to remember this and believe it. One of the worst things you can do when starting a new assignment is make a mistake that could have been easily avoided by asking a clarifying question. Asking questions is always better than making incorrect assumptions. Moreover, it is expected of you for your first few days. This is the time to ask where the best restroom for staff is, where the printer paper is stored, or how to reload the automated dispensing machine. Ask, ask, ask!

Take Notes

Seriously. I always kept a small notebook in my white coat pocket. This was also something I required of my rotations students. I’ve found that, in general, many people tend to think their memory is better than it actually is. Don’t make that mistake; write everything down. If you follow the previous advice and ask lots of questions, then you should have plenty of things to write in your notebook.

Be sure to review these notes at the end of each shift/day and again before your next shift. Another thing I liked to do in these notebooks was review my performance at the end of each day by listing three things I felt that I could improve upon, and then brainstorming ways to improve. While I won’t go as far as saying that this is absolutely necessary, I do think it helped me to stand out amongst my peers.

In any event, the important thing is to take notes in some form, especially during the first few days, when you’re likely to have the most questions as well as be on the receiving end of a significant amount of new information. Make it a point to keep track of these notes as they may be useful on a later assignment. There have been countless times that I have referred back to notes I took years prior and thanked my previous self for keeping such detailed notes.

Show Up Ready to Work

My final tip is also the simplest. I once knew a pharmacist that would show up with his tie untied and then proceed to tie it during the first few minutes of his shift. Not only does this take away time from the organization you are working for, it also, and more importantly, take time away from your patients. It may seem like a small thing, but it communicates a bigger message, one that says you’re okay with not being put together and having other people wait for you to be fully ready and present. Be cognizant of this and do your best to arrive completely prepared to work.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Instead, it is a collection of tips that I have used throughout my career. So far, they have proved to be immensely helpful. I hope that they will have similar outcomes for you as well.

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