Why pharmacies need to adopt stress management policies?

Increasing workloads and role complexity are raising the need for more pharmacies to adopt coherent stress management policies, academics believe.

UK pharmacy and business academics reviewed a range of studies across a number of industries looking at stress management and prevention.

They identified a list of organisational interventions that could work in a pharmacy context and said the need for such interventions was greater than ever, and would most likely become more so in the future.   

“There is a need to continue to raise awareness in community pharmacy about the risks of work stress to the individual, organisation and patient given the evidence that work stress in the sector is high and could increase yet further”, they said, highlighting the increasing workloads of pharmacists and the desire for further expansion to pharmacists’ roles.

By intervening through organisational stress management and prevention strategies, it has been suggested that UK business may save up to £8 billion (A$13.6 bn) per year if psychological well-being were better managed at work, say the authors.

“There is therefore strong evidence that community pharmacy organisations stand to benefit from tackling work stress through reduced rates of sickness absence and increased productivity through a healthier, more effective and motivated workforce,” they said.

The reviewers, from the University of Manchester, looked at 18 stress reduction interventions, including some from Australia.

“Community pharmacies are somewhat unique as healthcare providers, offering a range of healthcare services in addition to dispensing, often alongside the sale of both healthcare and non-healthcare products including cosmetics and groceries,” they said.

“It may be particularly beneficial to these organisations which span healthcare and retail sectors to broaden their consideration of what might be effective stress management interventions to those proving successful in other sectors of employment”.

The most commonly described effective organisational-level interventions for preventing work-related stress reviewed in the literature included those with a focus on modifying task or job characteristics. These included measures such as changing the production speed in a confectionary manufacturing company, integrating maintenance and support tasks with production in the Finnish forestry industry and a variety of other ‘job enrichment’ programmes.

Also commonly demonstrating evidence of effectiveness were interventions involving ergonomic improvements or other changes in the work physical environment. Examples include a study which evaluated a stress management programme in a German hospital which established ‘health circles’ (employee discussion groups for developing strategies to improve working conditions) to implement a number of changes including ergonomic and technical improvements.

Changes in work scheduling (e.g. the introduction of flexi-time, implementing rest break strategies or changes to shift rotations) also commonly demonstrated efficacy in these reviews.

For example, a review focusing specifically on the impact of rest breaks suggested that rest breaks incorporating relaxation sessions and respite activities (e.g. napping, relaxing and socialising) are more likely to reduce job-strain and enhance mood than doing chores (e.g. working with customers, running errands and work preparation). Rest breaks are also a potentially important means of reducing the risk of errors and accidents, while at the same time helping to maintain or even enhance job performance.

The study was published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice