Bullied in hospital pharmacy

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A Scottish pharmacist has written a moving account of being bullied in hospital pharmacy, and members of the profession have responded with support

“Bruised, battered and broken. These are the words I would use to describe my emotional state having experienced bullying in pharmacy,” wrote an anonymous pharmacist in an article published by Johnathan Laird, a contributor to Pharmacy in Practice and member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scottish Board. Mr Laird is also an independent prescriber specialising in asthma, and works part-time for a rural GP practice.

The anonymous pharmacist writes that having been described as “hardworking, conscientious and competent,” he once believed that this meant he would be respected and treated well in the workplace.

But “I couldn’t be more wrong,” he writes.

“Since qualifying, the hierarchy and power dynamic of the senior management teams in hospital pharmacy has repeatedly resulted in bullying and harassment as a standard ‘style’ of management,” he writes.

“I speak as a victim and a witness and know too well that this damages the health and well-being of keen and aspiring pharmacists, but also creates a vortex, draining hope and ambition from such individuals.”

The pharmacist describes the hierarchy in a hospital pharmacy department as creating a “stale and stifling” climate which crushes ambition, innovation and the desire to improve systems.

“I began a pharmacy career with the belief that my understanding of scientific principles of objectivity, experimentation and establishing facts would hold me in good stead as a hospital pharmacist. How wrong was I,” he writes.

“My experiences of bullying include openly being undermined, insulted and forced to agree to things without time to consider the request.”

He writes of routine high-pressure over-45-hour weeks which made him ill, then of being expected to make up the time lost from sickness; and a culture of spreading falsehoods about workers, by senior department members.

“I usually feel anxious at work and I have no support around me. I feel alone in a building filled with people paid to make people better. Is that really what I should feel when I go to do my job?”

The pharmacist writes that his career in hospitals “sapped all the good feelings towards pharmacy out of me”.

“We need good people to change this, but good people don’t damage people to get to the top and good people get beaten down by those in power.”

Comments on the article and on social media have been supportive.

“I totally agree,” one commenter wrote. “This has happened to me and in the end you would think it is all your fault and you are incompetent. However, now I have moved to a different hospital and the team is kind and supportive.”

“We should start a ‘Me too’ campaign,” wrote another. “I have worked in 5 hospitals and experienced it in 4 of them.”

Read the full article here.

Readers who are distressed can contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910 or at www.supportforpharmacists.org.au.

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