The purpose of this specialty residency is to prepare the resident for practice in inpatient and outpatient settings involving psychiatric pharmacotherapy. This type of residency may include core rotations that are chosen to establish a strong base in psychiatric and neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, attentiondeficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorders, substance abuse and addiction treatment, etc. Pharmacists completing this residency will obtain skills and competencies to become a responsible member of various multidisciplinary treatment teams and may be eligible to become a board certified psychiatric pharmacist (BCPP).
Psychiatric pharmacists have specialized training in the drugs used to treat mental illnesses. They work with medical physicians, psychiatrists and other caregivers and they help improve outcomes and minimize side effects for psychiatric patients.
Some pharmacists take active roles in different areas such as:
The psychiatric pharmacist coordinates care for patients with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. Psychiatric pharmacists understand the interactions between antidepressants, antipsychotics and antipasmodics that the patient takes during the day and they can guide the physician in choosing products that won't cause adverse reactions in the patient.
Psychiatric pharmacists also play a role in the design and testing of new therapeutic drugs, working for pharmaceutical companies or independent research laboratories. Psychiatric pharmacists have the necessary training and experience to suggest potential contra-indications or conflicts with new drugs, based on similar drugs of the same class or general type. When the new product moves to clinical testing, the pharmacist can play a crucial role in detecting and adjusting for potential side effects or adverse interactions with other medications. The pharmacist's insights are also useful in helping the research team determine the medication's overall efficacy compared to existing products.
Like other pharmacists, psychiatric pharmacists spend much of their time educating others. In some cases, they must find creative ways to explain the use of their medications to mentally-ill patients. Often families and caregivers must also be coached in how the medications work, what effects can be expected, and how to know if the patient isn't taking the necessary drugs. Psychiatric pharmacists educate their peers and other practitioners through published papers and articles in industry magazines, and many serve as faculty at universities and other institutions. They might also educate the public through mental-health seminars, newspaper articles, websites and similar forms of outreach.
Training and Certification
Psychiatric pharmacists begin their careers the same way as other pharmacists, completing three to four years of undergraduate studies and then a four-year doctorate in pharmacy, or Pharm.D. However, most psychiatric pharmacists then go on to complete at least two additional years in specialized psychiatric residencies or fellowships. Some earn graduate degrees in the subject, with a Ph.D. being especially valuable in research or academia. The Board of Pharmacy Specialties will also consider candidates who have practiced psychiatric pharmacy for at least four years, in lieu of residency. Qualified candidates must pass a rigorous examination to be board-certified, and must maintain the certification through continuing education.
Helpful links for further reading:
Neuropsychiatric Pharmacy FAQ
Explore Psychiatric pharmacy settings
Explore psychiatric pharmacy part 2