Stressed out

Survey reveals a profession under high levels of stress, especially among younger pharmacists

A nationwide survey of pharmacists has revealed a profession that is experiencing “high levels of stress”.

The survey, of 1246 pharmacists, interns and students, has found that on a rating scale of perceived stress, the pharmacy workforce rated much higher than the broader Australian population.

Levels of stress were highest among those under 30 years of age and/or with 10 years or less in the pharmacy workforce.

The researchers, from Monash University and the Pharmacists Support Service (PSS) used an online survey incorporating the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale.

Intern pharmacists recorded an average PSS-10 score of 22.7, students 21.0 and registered pharmacists 19.6.

All were significantly higher than was found among the general Australian workforce, the authors said, with the nationwide APS survey between 2011 and 2015 finding the Australian population reported stress scores ranging between 15.5 and 16.4.

In addition, only around one third of all pharmacists who responded to the Monash/PSS survey indicated they were satisfied (agree/strongly agree) with their work-life balance. 

“In relation to work-life balance, more respondents under 25 years old or 60 years old and older indicated
they were satisfied compared with other ages”, the authors said, “but overall only about one third of the workforce expressed being satisfied”.

“When the length of time respondents had been in the pharmacy workforce and their ages were examined two related findings were evident: firstly, those who had been in the workforce for… less than 10 years had slightly higher stress scores than those who had been in the workforce longer, a difference which was statistically significant,” the authors said.

“Secondly, respondents aged between 20 and 25 years and between 26 and 29 years had slightly higher stress scores compared with younger and older colleagues. This was statistically significant,” they said.

Younger people (18–25 years) in the Australian population report lower levels of stress than early career
pharmacists, the authors said, probably indicating the added impact of pharmacy workplace issues.

Workplace issues accounted for about 60% of all stressors among the pharmacy workforce. This was double that of the general population (32%) as revealed by the APS surveys.

Most respondents to the Monash/PSS survey worked in community pharmacies, followed by hospital pharmacies, the authors said. A substantial number (13.2%) of those who completed the survey were qualified to perform medication reviews.

The average number of pharmacy-related work hours each week was 36.3 ± 16.1 hours. The median was 40 hours, with 68.8% of respondents indicating they worked in one job, 19% in two jobs and 5% in three jobs. Four percent were not working. 

While expressing the limitation that the survey response was self-selecting, the authors “the results provide guidance on opportunities for possible interventions, provide a baseline for further studies and provide preliminary information to AHPRA about stress”.

“Professional pharmacy associations, schools of pharmacy at Australian universities and AHPRA have been alerted to this issue,” they said.

Commenting on the survey, Kay Dunkley of PSS, one of the authors, said the findings “reflect the experiences reported to PSS when members of the pharmacy profession call us for support. 

The research confirms the need for PSS but also indicate the need to review how we prepare pharmacy students for the workforce,” she told AJP.

“We also need to encourage members of the profession to practice self-care and to address workplace conditions which contribute to stress.

Pharmacy will never be totally stress free due to the nature of the profession but we can make improvements which ensure the wellbeing of members of the profession and thus ensure we can competently meet the needs of the Australian community”.




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