I have always had a fascination with the field of mental health. There is still so much unknown, when compared with something like cardiology, and that was the best part for me: the potential to make positive contributions to a developing field. Naturally, this led me to apply for pharmacy summer placements within the mental health sector. I was fortunate enough to experience this at two great London NHS Trusts. During my first placement I shadowed the pharmacists during ward rounds where I met patients, dispensed a wide range of medicines including clozapine, and developed my understanding of how mental health conditions are treated. At my second placement I spent time learning about the roles of pharmacy team members. The pharmacists did not attend all ward rounds, though I shadowed them as they screened patients’ charts. Interestingly, I also had the opportunity to speak with a lady about her medication at a women’s crisis house and check patients’ medications at a rehabilitation unit.
Through both placements I learned that mental health hospitals operate differently to acute hospitals due to the patients that are seen. In mental health, patients are brought to ward rounds rather than the team visiting a patient’s bedside. I also found that there was more trial and error when selecting the medicines for each patient because their mechanism of action is not always fully understood and some medications are more efficacious.
Ultimately, every experience will vary depending on the services offered at the trust and the amount of initiative taken when on placement. I personally found both experiences extremely rewarding and though this field can be challenging, hearing families speak about the positive change they see in their loved ones was a great motivator for me to one day enter this field as a pharmacist.