New pathway for psychology students to help reverse state’s mental health care shortage

Doctor of Pharmacy student Kaylee McPhail takes part in a mental health simulation with a mock-patient. The training helps future pharmacists identify and support individuals who are experiencing mental health challenges.

Psychology students interested in pursuing a career in mental health care can now do so through an accelerated program at Washington State University. The program enables students to receive their bachelor’s and professional pharmacy degree in just seven years. The first three years will be fulfilling pre-pharmacy and psychology requirements, and the remaining four years will focus on the professional pharmacy program.

“The pandemic exacerbated the mental health crisis in the country, and we are still feeling the effects of it today. According to the Health Resources Administration, by 2030, it’s predicted we will be short 14,000 mental health professionals,” said Lee Daffin, associate chair and undergraduate director at the WSU College of Arts and Sciences.

The new path gives psychology students the opportunity to specialize in a field where there is a growing need for mental health care providers. Washington state is ranked in the top 20 states in the U.S. in need of more mental health providers. To alleviate the shortage, 154 more mental health providers are required each year to meet the needs of Washingtonians. Having a psychology degree coupled with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree also opens the door to a career in health care that would not have been possible with the bachelor’s degree alone. It also gives the practicing pharmacist a deeper understanding on how different medications impact their patients’ brain functions and behaviors.

“Having this new pathway will open the door for students across Pullman, Tri-Cities, Vancouver and Global campuses to enter health care which is a growing demand in Washington state and the country,” said Megan Willson, who leads the Doctor of Pharmacy program for the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Daffin and Willson are optimistic that the new pathway will help guide WSU students into a rewarding career in health care that serves Washington state.

Along with courses in psychology, students will take basic science courses to give them a strong foundation before entering the Doctor of Pharmacy program. The accelerated pathway is unique because it combines the strengths of both degrees and saves students one year of time in school and tuition, where traditional pathways generally take 8 years to complete.

Upon completing their third year in the undergraduate program, students will begin their Doctor of Pharmacy degree in the fourth year either at the WSU Spokane campus or the Doctor of Pharmacy extension at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima.

Interested students are encouraged to speak with Assistant Director of Recruitment and Admissions Laura Lagreid or Lead Undergraduate Advisor for the Department of Psychology Chioma Heim, or visit the website to learn more.

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