Bullied in hospital pharmacy

depressed man mental health depression anxiety PTSD

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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  1. Notachemist

    This is real and sadly happens in many Australian pharmacy settings. It is up to us all to speak up if we observe inappropriate behaviour – the standard you walk by is the standard you accept.

    • Karalyn Huxhagen

      Cameron describes the toll it takes on your health and ability to perform very well. As one who eventually left and found a far far better employer I can vouch that you do not realise the depth of the destruction till you leave. It not only affected me but my family and close friends as I was closing down to all around me. Took me a long time to believe in me again and the black dog still strokes me on the shoulder at times. The 2nd time I was in a bad environment I walked quickly out the door. I would apply for any job rather than go back to that mental destruction. I now work a 2nd job outside of pharmacy to give me balance. It helps the healing.

  2. M M

    This is real and Sad.

    It happens in many pharmacies especially those ones that have a layer of NON pharmacist BDM’s (Business Development Managers) who work closely with Retail Managers to push the managing pharmacist to do extra work through applying too much pressure on them which in return could have a serious negative impact on the pharmacist’s mental health or their work life balance.

    Also, it happens in rural pharmacies when Pharmacy owners are too scared to fire any of the pharmacy assistants for a misconduct because it could affect the reputation of the pharmacy.

  3. Gavin Mingay

    It is not just hospital pharmacy… With pharmacies becoming such large corporations, many of them are exactly the same…

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