Anyone who has survived a pharmacy residency knows that the demands, the educational workload, and issues in their personal life can cause tremendous stress.
“Stress is caused by the number of things you are trying to juggle when you are a resident. You have patients you are taking care of, as well as projects, committees, and other tasks you are trying to juggle all at once,” said Molly Wascher, PharmD, BCPS, a post-graduate year two (PGY2) pharmacy resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. “You are excited about the career you chose, but getting all these tasks done—and getting them done on time—is difficult.”
But how severe is the impact of stress on pharmacy residents? Does stress cause depression or worse—suicide? Pharmacy educators, researchers, and organizations such as the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists (ASHP) are beginning to take a closer look at stress during residency, so they can determine ways to help residents who are faced with high stress levels.
“We really haven’t studied this a lot. On the medical side, they have been looking at [the impacts of stress on residents] longer. It is the same clinical environment for a medical, nursing, or pharmacy resident, so we can make some extrapolations: if medical residents are experiencing stress, pharmacy and nursing residents likely are, too,” said Janet A. Silvester, PharmD, Vice President of Accreditation Services for ASHP.
The first study on pharmacy resident stress, “Evaluation of stress by pharmacy residents”, was published in the April 15, 2017, issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.
After surveying 542 post-graduate year one (PGY1) and PGY2 residents, researchers from VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in Harlingen found that pharmacy residents—especially those who worked very long hours each week—exhibited high levels of perceived stress.
“Pharmacy residents who reported working more than 60 hours per week were significantly more likely than those working fewer hours to have higher MAACL-R subscale scores for depression, hostility, and dysphoria,” the researchers wrote. MAACL-R is the Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist-Revised, which is a measure of both temporary and long-term affect, or the experience of feeling emotion. “When the pressures of being overworked exceed a resident’s ability to cope, his or her psychological well-being is in danger and there is the potential for physical exhaustion and feelings of burnout, distress, and depression.”
The researchers found no significant difference in the stress levels of PGY1 and PGY2 residents.
Up next: Helping to manage stress