Stress test

Hospital pharmacists aren’t immune from the pressures of stress and overwork, according to the results of a new career survey

This week AJP covered the results of a career survey published in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research, which found most pharmacists and interns reported generally high satisfaction with their current employment.

However digging deeper, researchers found that pharmacists had some issues with their profession.

Some of these included concerns about pay rates, pressure from discount pharmacies, job insecurity and a competitive job market.

Overwork and job pressure was a particular concern for those in the hospital sector.

Two hospital pharmacists who were interviewed expressed concerns about “being overworked, understaffed and with huge pharmacist-to-patient ratio”.

These ratios, for example, were as large as 90 patients to one pharmacist.

“To give you an idea, I’ve got two clinical pharmacists for 180 beds,” said an interviewee.

“I feel really sorry for them, they are being worked to the bone, beyond their ratios, beyond what they could possibly fit into the working week”.

Many also described “long hours, no breaks and overtime”.

The participants expressed the dangers surround the long hours, with tired and pressured pharmacists meaning a great chance for error to occur.

Last year’s National Stress and Wellbeing Survey of Pharmacists, Intern Pharmacists and Pharmacy Students found that pharmacists in general were more stressed than the Australian population.

Those aged under 30, and/or with less than 10 years of experience in the profession, reported the highest levels of stress.

A 2007 study also showed that about one in 20 Australian hospital pharmacists were showing a high level of “burnout”. Young hospital pharmacists were the most vulnerable.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels says the results of the JPPR survey add impetus to efforts to help pharmacists identify, manage and reduce their workplace stress.

“Pharmacist roles are becoming increasingly complex – particularly in hospitals – and therefore working environments and hours continue to evolve and diversify,” says Ms Michaels.

“SHPA is responding to these changes. The same year this data was collected, members at the 2016 SHPA Future Summit identified a need for greater, formalised peer support, which led to the launch of the SHPA Mentoring Program in November last year.

“Last December, SHPA forged a stronger alliance with Pharmacists’ Support Services to deliver a range of new initiatives and services to support the wellness of hospital pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and assistants, such as our ongoing Wellness at Work webinar series.

“Looking forward, we are preparing a comprehensive deep dive into the hospital pharmacy workforce – exploring the good and the bad at the coalface – to make sure we remain responsive to the holistic needs of Australian pharmacists.”

Affected staff can contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service if they need someone to talk to. The organisation’s 1300 244 910 line is available 365 days a year, from 8am-11pm.

A free PSS manual, Managing Stress in Pharmacy, is available here.


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