Mental health and wellbeing in the pharmacy

How do you look after yourself, your colleagues and staff?

Pressure seems to be mounting on all sides in the pharmacy space, for both owners and employees.

It is important for staff to take care of their mental health and wellbeing, reminds the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS), who asks the King Review panel to take this into account when making their recommendations.

During a 12-month period (1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016), 37% of calls received by the PSS were directly related to stress.

“Stress can occur when, for example, a pharmacy changes hands and there are concerns surrounding employment or pressure to upsell, or when there are issues regarding workplace relationships or abusive customers,” says PSS Executive Officer Kay Dunkley.

A further 39% of calls were instigated due to a workplace issue. Worryingly, 12% of calls related to mental health while discussion of suicide and self-harm was the reason behind 5% of calls to the PSS.

“The figures above are evidence that pharmacists are currently at risk due to stress and workplace pressures,” says the PSS in its submission to the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation.

“PSS is concerned that the pressure on pharmacists may increase in the future and that this review and its outcomes will impact further on the wellbeing of pharmacists, pharmacy interns and pharmacy students,” it says.

Real stories

Employee Pharmacist told the King Review panel in their submission that pharmacists are “forced to deal with unimaginable levels of pressure to process hundreds of prescriptions per day without making an error, while acting as a mini-doctor trying to diagnose and help patients in between scripts”.

They added pharmacists have to deal with “standing on your feet ALL day often for 12-hour shifts” with no lunch breaks. “If you complain, the pharmacy will find someone else to do your job because of the oversupply of pharmacists in metro areas,” they wrote.

Practising pharmacist manager Alex Tran wrote that his main concern is “the increasing workload on pharmacists, especially in ‘big box’ pharmacies.”

“Having spoken to colleagues, there seems to be a trend in reducing staff numbers, especially pharmacists working. This leads to increased workload in script numbers which will affect the pharmacist’s ability to perform their jobs effectively.

“I would like to see busier pharmacies that fill 30 scripts or more an hour to have at least two pharmacists working,” says Tran.

Professional Pharmacists Association (PPA) has even told AJP that some pharmacies have pharmacists dispensing over 300 scripts a day by themselves.

“It’s not just prescription numbers that add to workload stress. We are expected to provide an increasing number of services in the same amount of time with increase in pay,” a pharmacist told the PPA.

Community Pharmacist Employee wrote in their review submission that “pressure on individual pharmacists is relentless and constant”.

“In pharmacies across Australia the work environment is depressed and anxious at the least, and at worst staff are being verbally abused frequently by employers focused on profit,” they say.

“The pressure is all for financial goals, never for patient outcomes.”

How are you coping with workplace stress?

The PSS helpline – 1300 244 910 – is open all year round from 8am to 11pm.

Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support line is 13 11 14.

beyondblue also provides mental health support on 1300 22 46 36.

You may be interested in reading:

Calling for help: Part 1

Calling for help: Part 2

Pressure rising for overworked pharmacists

Previous The blame game: Part 2
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