In your pharmacy career, have you ever felt yourself at the brink of burning out?
“Burnout” is a psychological term coined in the 1970s that referred to the consequences of severe stress experienced by people working in “helping” professions.
The phrase is now used to describe the experience of people in all different kinds of high-stress professions, based on a set of general symptoms.
According to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, there are three main areas of symptoms that are considered to be signs of burnout:
Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and do not have enough energy. Physical symptoms may include things like pain and stomach or bowel problems.
Alienation from (work-related) activities: People who have burnout find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work.
Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for family members. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity.
Recently the BBC broadcast a report that heard from pharmacists working for the UK pharmacy chain Boots, who said their teams were struggling with work pressures and understaffing.
“Some days you would describe the team as being at breaking point,” said the first insider, whose comments were portrayed by an actor.
“That’s because simply the amount of work that has to be done can’t physically get done, safely, and can’t physically get done without working longer hours or working after the store’s closed.”
The second pharmacist said: “You don’t have the correct amount of time. You don’t even have the correct amount of staff to do things on time. At best you’ll barely have enough staff to just cope.”
“We have an open and honest culture,” responded Richard Bradley, Pharmacy Director of Boots UK.
“I’m absolutely confident that the resources are there to deliver the patient care. I am confident that we have enough staff,” he told the BBC.
However work pressure was found to be a factor in the suicide of a young Boots pharmacist in mid-2015.
Early career pharmacists in Australia were found to be among the most stressed members of a high-stress profession, according to the 2017 National Stress and Wellbeing Survey of Pharmacists, Intern Pharmacists and Pharmacy Students.
In addition, a 2007 study showed that about one in 20 Australian hospital pharmacists were showing high levels of burnout. Young hospital pharmacists were the most vulnerable.
This week, AJP also reported about a young pharmacist who was forced to face a tribunal after supplying restricted drugs to customers without scripts and falsifying dispensing records.
During the tribunal hearings, it was heard that the pharmacist had been suffering from anxiety and depression, working very long hours and often as the only pharmacist in the remote, isolated community.
“He is now acutely aware of the dangers of burnout and stress. He was very aware … of the need to ensure he has in place strategies to avoid burnout and stress in the future; the things which he feels contributed to his poor decision-making,” the tribunal found.
We want to know how many Australian pharmacists are dealing with burnout and stress. Let us know in the poll below. All responses are anonymous.
Are you feeling stressed, anxious or overworked? Contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910 (8am to 11pm) to speak with a volunteer pharmacist counsellor.
A free PSS manual, Managing Stress in Pharmacy, is available here.