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

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