Constant criticism taking its toll


doctor wearing boxing glove

Media reports critical of pharmacy and attacks from doctors’ groups may be increasing the amount of stress on pharmacists

The National Stress and Wellbeing Survey of Pharmacists, Intern Pharmacists and Pharmacy Students has shed light on the stressors affecting pharmacists, with workload, lack of support and job security worries among the issues raised.

Several pharmacists who responded to the survey also stated that criticism of the profession is also taking its toll.

This year doctors’ groups have repeatedly criticised the pharmacy sector over a number of issues, including over the now-defunct Amcal pathology testing initiative, the suggestion that pharmacy has let OTC codeine get “out of control” and is risking patients’ health via expanding its scope of practice.

Several articles have appeared in the mainstream media of late, routinely accusing pharmacists of overcharging their patients; getting handouts for doing nothing; and being “greedy chemists” for failing to offer patients the $1 copayment discount.

The constant criticism is getting some pharmacists down.

“Remuneration is a big issue as well as the constant attacks on the profession by people who seem to know little about the realities of what a pharmacist actually does,” one older pharmacy owner said in his survey response.

“We see other professions and careers with increasing remuneration but huge pressure on pharmacy—same workload, less pay ends up resulting in increased workload and less pay.

“The constant criticism of pharmacy owners and the perpetuation of the myth that we are all out there ripping everyone off, overcharging and somehow making a killing can be very stressful.”

Another wrote that “It is not colleagues that cause me to feel stressed. It is the general public and lack of respect from other health professions.”

PSA national president Dr Shane Jackson said that pharmacy does not seem to enjoy the same respect afforded to other health professions in the mainstream media.

The Stress and Wellbeing survey showed that pharmacists suffer from similar elevated stress levels to doctors and nurses.

While Dr Jackson said he didn’t want to detract from the plight of doctors and nurses facing workplace pressures, long hours and stress – as has been highlighted in medical and mainstream media recently, following the deaths from suicide of several young doctors and students – more recognition that pharmacists face similar pressures is needed, he said.

“[In the media] you see these types of messages where pharmacists are brought down to commoditisers of medicines,” he said. “This creates an environment where people feel like they’re not rewarded for their skills as health care professionals.

“So if the mainstream media are stating things like ‘pharmacists are ripping off customers’ it can in fact grossly contribute to those types of feelings.

“Equally, it happens when other health professional groups diminish the role of pharmacy in health care.

“Over recent times we feel under-recognised for the significant role we play, and if there’s people who seem to be attacking the good work we’re doing, we start to think, ‘why are we doing it?’

“All these things add up,” he said. “If I’m comfortable in my job and reporters are saying, ‘chemists are ripping us off,’ it’s probably water off a duck’s back.

“But if I’m already stressed, and I have a large workload and I’m not comfortable in my workplace, if patients come in and repeat those things, it can become a significant issue.”

AJP will be reporting on stress affecting the pharmacy profession over the next couple of weeks. Readers are invited to tell their stories, either by leaving comments below or getting in touch with the AJP team.

Readers who are distressed can contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910.

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