Learning How to Bend, Not Break – Resilience Among Pharmacists

Exhaustion. Indifference. Tense muscles, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping. Irritability, anxiety, relationship problems, depression – this is what burnout looks like, and it’s reached a critical juncture for today’s pharmacists, say leading industry organizations. They want it to change.

Let me off, please
Tighter margins, increasing patient expectations, regulatory frustrations, personnel issues, and struggles to juggle work and family can make pharmacists feel like they’re on a constantly inclining treadmill to nowhere. Although things may be worse for employees of large drug store chains, community pharmacy is far from immune. The unpredictability of workflow (10 people in an hour one day, 3 the next) can create a sense of lack of control, which is a major contributor to burnout.

The most recent National Pharmacist Workforce Study shows long-running trends continue – more and more pharmacists say their workload has negative or very negative effects on job performance, work motivation, job satisfaction, and mental and physical health. Independent pharmacists reported the highest levels of home-work conflict. Also up from 2004 to 2014 were ratings of highly stressful events, particularly having so much work to do that everything cannot be done well and feeling ultimately responsible for patient outcomes.

Sound familiar? As a previous Insight article shared, you might want to try a quick online tool to see if you’re experiencing burnout. If so, recognize that you are most certainly not alone, and that there’s growing evidence that resilience, that way some people have of always bouncing back from adversity, can be cultivated.

Breaking point?
Saying that pharmacy is at a critical juncture when it comes to work stress, the AACP, ACPE, APhA, NABP, and NASPA came together in Chicago from July 17-19 to talk about pharmacist well-being, moral distress, work overload, and burnout.

They reached consensus on 50 recommendations for meaningful and actionable change in the areas of:

  • Pharmacist work conditions and patient safety
  • Payment models
  • Relations between pharmacists and employers
  • Pharmacist and student pharmacist well-being
  • Well-being education and training
  • Communications
  • Data, information, and research on pharmacist well-being

Many of the recommendations speak more to large-chain employers and pharmacists, but the call to take personal responsibility for well-being speaks directly to community pharmacists, who often work much harder to ensure well-being for their patients than for themselves.

Cultivating resilience
What makes a person resilient? It involves mental work, not magic. Factors include optimism, emotional regulation, and seeing failure as helpful. Optimism blunts the impact of stress, letting you take a more reasoned approach to what’s going wrong and consider alternate behaviors that might be more productive. So let’s talk about how a few of the conference’s recommendations apply to community pharmacists.

Within the suggestions related to work conditions and patient safety, the group advocates expanded roles for pharmacy technicians. It’s a topic getting increasing attention and a question to ask yourself – are you using your techs to their full potential?

They also recommend pharmacists assume their professional responsibility to proactively identify personal stressors, learn self-care techniques, and consistently apply strategies that address well-being and help prevent burnout. How are you doing in that area? Do you give your well-being the focused attention it deserves? These resources might be a place to start.

And certainly not least are their recommendations related to payment models. As an individual, think about cultivating a greater sense of control by working with groups to expose and eliminate detrimental PBM reimbursement policies.

Aside from the action items above from July’s conference, there’s some common sense involved:

  • The first step in any strategy to avoid burnout is to take time off. It’s crucial to recharging and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  • Tackle exhausting staff conflict by finding a common purpose or cause to unite around, maybe a local fundraiser or sprucing up the store.
  • Take just a few minutes daily to have simple small talk with customers – it can undo a lot of frustrations.

And remember that your job isn’t your whole life. Don’t neglect the hobbies and relationships that make you who you are. They may just be the restoration you need to continue being a community pharmacist.

Do you feel burned out? Is anything really helping? Leave a comment. We want to hear how our community pharmacists are feeling.

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QS/1 is the leader in pharmacy management systems, providing software for community pharmacies in an ever-changing and dynamic healthcare marketplace. We are, and have always been, customer focused, and our software solutions help independent, chain, hospital outpatient pharmacies, and HME businesses remain relevant, profitable, and proficient through technology. QS/1 is the only vendor with an integrated suite of products and services, including POS, IVR, document management, mobile and delivery apps, prescription synchronization, and HME billing and compliance. We also offer the industry’s only 24/7 Emergency Customer Support. QS/1 is part of Smith Technologies, LLC, a subsidiary of the J M Smith Corporation, one of the largest privately held companies in South Carolina.

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