Burning out

Absenteeism, fleeing the profession, self-reported errors, reduced patient care: COVID’s impacts on pharmacists revealed 

The graphic impacts that COVID-19 has had on Australia’s pharmacists have been revealed by a new study that found high rates of burnout among the profession. 

This resulted in high rates of burnout, associated with absenteeism, self-reported errors, reduced patient care and in some cases, pharmacists leaving the profession.

Researchers from the University of Sydney and ANU surveyed 647 pharmacists during April and June 2020, in the earlier months of the pandemic.

Of those surveyed, 75% were female, while the numbers were evenly split between hospital (42%) and community (40%) pharmacists.

Their findings revealed emotional exhaustions scores that were higher than those reported prior to the pandemic. Male pharmacists reported higher depersonalisation, indicating cynicism, disconnection and increased withdrawal. 

A number of respondents reported that working overtime, medication supply issues and patient incivility had adversely affected their work during the pandemic. 

A large majority of the respondents (87%) said that their personal life had been impacted, most commonly due to isolation from friends and family.

There were some positive findings, however, with 34% saying they now had a greater understanding of infection control and 29.8% saying the pandemic was a “learning experience”.

“The burnout scores in this study are higher than score reported in hospital pharmacists prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the authors.

The said more needed to be done to improve recognition of burnout in the profession.

“Pharmacists have experienced changes to their lives and work during the global COVID-19 pandemic, with higher than previously reported rates of burnout affecting the profession,” the authors said.

“High workloads, overtime, medication supply and patient behaviour have affected pharmacist’s work during the pandemic.”

“These factors, and the increased depersonalisation of male pharmacists requires further study to inform both the recognition and treatment of burnout in pharmacists.”

With some respondents identifying better medication supply and the provision of personal protective equipment as modifiable factors in preventing burnout, the authors called for pharmacists to be included in emergency preparedness planning “given they are crucial front-line healthcare workers being affected by these modifiable factors.” 

The study was published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

For more on managing stress during the pandemic, go here and listen to our podcast on managing stress

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  1. Breanna Friend

    I really struggled to cope at the height of the pandemic from March to May of 2020 and ended up resigning from my position in community pharmacy because of the crippling anxiety I was experiencing. I’ve been off work since August last year after working for 6 weeks in another pharmacy that I also left as I was struggling. It turns out that I had undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, hence why I found it particularly tricky to cope during a pandemic! It’s now being properly managed, I am stable and was offered a great new job last week. I am keen to get back into work! We are a resilient bunch but need to recognise when we need to take a moment for ourselves.

    • Ex-Pharmacist

      Oh Breanna, I’m glad things are starting to getting better for you. I agree, self-care is very important and it’s sometimes hard to recognise the need for it when you are stuck in a busy routine. Best of wishes on your new job!

      • Breanna Friend

        Thank you so much. I’ve been very fortunate to have a great support network and the means to take time out to get myself back to where I need and want to be.

    • (Mary) Kay Dunkley

      Thank you for sharing this Breanna. Your story will help others to take steps to look after themselves. Best wishes for the future in your new role.

      • Breanna Friend

        Thank you so much Kay, and thank you for the valuable work that PSS does!

  2. Cogrady

    I just went to an excecise physiologist today . No noise.Totally private.No one else present and a decent charge. Its been interesting watching Nursing and Allied Health (NDIS) ascend in their pay and satisfaction at work since I started in 1983. from an old female community pharmacist

  3. Nicholas Logan

    It’s been a hard year. While getting a blood test recently my GP asked me about my mental health and I really appreciated talking about it. Pharmacy did a great job steering Australia through the pandemic and I tip my hat to you all.

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