Low pay biggest stressor

woman pharmacist stressed about not finding medicine

On RU OK? Day today, AJP takes a look at what’s stressing you out

Following the release of the findings of the National Stress and Wellbeing Survey of Pharmacists, Intern Pharmacists and Pharmacy Students, AJP asked readers to tell us what single factor was causing them the most stress.

A total of 476 votes were counted, and it appears that there’s a fairly wide spread of different issues worrying different pharmacists: but in the end, one was a clear winner.

Eighteen per cent (84 voters) of readers told us that “trying to make ends meet on low pay” was the biggest challenge facing them in the pharmacy profession.

In order, the next most problematic issues were:

  • Trying to fit professional services into an already packed schedule – 15% (70 votes)
  • Not enough staff at my pharmacy – 11% (52 votes)
  • Lack of career path/advancement – 11% (50 votes)
  • Difficult colleagues – 6% (27 votes)
  • Seeing other pharmacists deviate from accepted professional practice – 6% (27 votes)
  • Irate patients – 5% (26 votes)
  • Running a business – 5% (23 votes)
  • Can’t take time off when I want – 5% (22 votes)
  • Hitting pharmacy KPIs – 4% (20 votes)
  • No/not enough breaks – 3% (14 votes)
  • High script volume – 3% (13 votes)
  • Finding locums – 2% (11 votes)
  • Future trends such as being replaced by a robot – 1% (6 votes)
  • Finding time to do CPD – 1% (7 votes)
  • Crime – 1% (3 votes)

Fortunately, a further 21 pharmacists (4%) told us that “I’m not all that stressed”.

Pharmacy stakeholders have told the AJP, since the survey results were announced, of the importance of looking out for one another.

NSW PDL director and Western Sydney pharmacy owner Curtis Ruhnau wrote this week that “we need to normalise the idea of looking after each other; of talking about our emotions with respect to errors and near-misses”.

“We need a support structure (both formal and informal) which invokes the casual, but open, format of the RUOK? Program”, he said.

Today is RU OK? Day, and Kay Dunkley, executive officer of the Pharmacists’ Support Service, highlighted the importance of pharmacists supporting pharmacists, whatever the stressor.

“It’s important that we all look out for each other, and are prepared to ask our colleagues if they’re okay – and if they’re not okay, being prepared to take the next step to get the help they need,” Ms Dunkley says.

“This might be passing on the PSS number or linking them up to a service that’s appropriate for them.

“Within a workplace, respecting each other and developing good communication between work colleagues, working together as a team and supporting each other is important.

“Building in some social activities together, or doing team-building activities which have a social emphasis, are good.”

Mandatory reporting is often cited as a fear, particularly among GPs, for health professionals considering seeking help for stress management or mental health concerns.

But Ms Dunkley reminded pharmacists that “the bar is set quite high, and only comes into play if somebody’s putting the public at risk of harm” where mandatory reporting is concerned, and that it’s important to seek help at an early stage.

“They’re better off getting help early, and getting the support they need before they get to a stage where mandatory reporting becomes an issue,” she says.

Ms Dunkley also encouraged pharmacists to reach out beyond their pharmacy’s walls to the rest of the profession.

“Participating in activities organised by the pharmacy organisations, whether conferences or educational events, is good because it broadens your network.

“Use social media to talk to colleagues and keep in touch with those who might be located a distance away. Personally I think the PSA’s early career pharmacist page is brilliant in terms of the support that people provide for each other.”

And on RU OK? Day today, “be prepared to ask each other – but also reach out to customers and patients – and having a good understanding of how to help people through things like mental health first aid is fantastic.”

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

PDL members can contact PDL on 1300 854 838.

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