Strategies already underway to tackle pharmacist stress


Stressed pharmacist in dispensary

It’s Mental Health Day, and a good time for pharmacists to implement some self care strategies

Following the release of the National Stress and Wellbeing Survey of Pharmacists, Intern Pharmacists and Pharmacy Students last month, the profession now has a better understanding of the impact stress has upon pharmacists.

The survey found that half of Australia’s pharmacists are not happy with their work-life balance, and that they suffer from similar stress levels as other health professionals – that is, a higher level than the average Australian.

Kay Dunkley from the Pharmacists’ Support Service says that steps are already being taken to address pharmacist stress, but it’s also a good time for individuals to examine how they’re feeling.

“We’ve learned that pharmacists are at risk, and we do need to take action to address the issues that were raised in the survey,” she told the AJP.

“Some of the organisations are already starting down that track: for example, the PSA has made a submission in regard to mandatory reporting.

“Our plan [at PSS] is to identify the most critical issues, and then work with the organisations to see what can be done.

“A lot of it, though, will come back to individual workplaces and individual pharmacists: making sure they look after themselves and their own mental health.”

She encouraged pharmacists to try and ensure they give themselves enough downtime, make healthy food choices, take breaks and build some exercise into their day.

“The old saying is ‘put on your own oxygen mask first, so that you can help others,’ she says.

But Ms Dunkley also cautioned that employers also need to take responsibility for some of the pressure on their staff.

“Every pharmacist has an individual responsibility, but in the longer term, there will be a need to look at things like workload, and the pressure that puts pharmacists under,” she says.

“Times are tight in pharmacy economically at the moment, and it can be tempting to look at keeping staff to a minimum, but that’s not good for either the individual pharmacist or the public that they’re serving.

“It’s important to make sure that pharmacists are not under undue pressure.”

Researchers at the University of Tasmania have also issued a call to employers to make employee mental health a priority.

Mental health safety requires as much attention as work health and safety laws and fitness programs, say the co-leaders of the University’s Work, Health & Wellbeing Network, Associate Professor Angela Martin and Dr Sarah Dawkins.

“Return on investment analyses suggest that on average, for every $1 an organisation invests into workplace mental health they can receive a $2.30 return, achieved through improved productivity and reduced claims,” Dr Dawkins says.

A new survey by the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics aims to help organisations ensure they are mentally healthy places to work.

The aim is to survey a broad cross section of organisations and businesses to enable the development of strategies for all types of workplaces.

Dr Dawkins says the past five to 10 years have seen improvement in mental health literacy among the general community, largely thanks to awareness campaigns such as RUOK Day.

“But what we tend to see is a bit of a ‘scattergun’ approach, with employers offering one-off initiatives, such as resilience training or mindfulness training,” she says.

“While these can be effective, their impact is limited when they are not embedded as part of an integrated approach to mental health.”

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