Pharmacists can use a variety of tools to foster resilience and prevent burnout.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists’ roles were expanded. Pharmacists have constantly been on the front line, administering COVID-19 vaccines and providing treatment.1 With these added responsibilities, there is often a trade-off—especially when adequate support isn’t provided. This can lead to burnout, a workplace phenomenon characterized by emotional exhaustion and lack of personal accomplishment at work.2 In May 2022, the US surgeon general issued an advisory report to address health worker burnout and resignation.2 The report emphasizes the importance of protecting the health, safety, and well-being of health workers.2 Pharmacists should have a variety of tools at their disposal to prevent, identify, and cope with burnout.
Pharmacist Resilience Tools
Results from one study revealed that 45% of pharmacists surveyed reported increased feelings of physical exhaustion at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.3 Additionally, 53% of pharmacists reported increased feelings of emotional exhaustion at work.3 This was true even before pharmacists began administering COVID-19 vaccines. There are a variety of workplace stressors that can contribute to burnout, such as staffing shortages and long hours.1,4 Difficulty balancing personal life and work life can also contribute to burnout. Unfortunately, burnout can affect the mental health of pharmacists and result in medication errors.4
Establishing resilience in the pharmacy workforce has a variety of benefits, including higher-quality care, increased patient safety, and improved patient satisfaction.4 Bled Tanoe, PharmD, started the #PizzaIsNotWorking social media campaign to raise awareness that pizza—and other similar incentives—don’t help address pharmacist burnout and working conditions.5 Pharmacists can build resilience through various strategies.4,6 Pharmacy organizations such as the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists have also provided resources to enhance pharmacist resilience.4,7
The National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations and APhA sponsor the Pharmacy Workplace and Well-being Reporting (PWWR) portal.8 The PWWR portal is an online resource for pharmacists and other pharmacy personnel to anonymously report both positive and negative pharmacy workplace experiences.7 Possible solutions to workplace issues can also be provided to promote well-being and enhance patient safety. These confidential and anonymous reports are analyzed by the Alliance for Patient Medication Safety.7
Pharmacist Tips for Resilience
Drug Topics® interviewed 7 pharmacists for tips on how to build resilience. These trailblazers provided advice to enhance both personal and professional well-being, with strategies ranging from building comradery among their staff to taking time for self-care.
Sara Trusler, PharmD: At least 4 times a year, my staff and I do things outside of work [eg, get dinner, have a game night]. We build each other up and stay invested in one another as [individuals]. Our metrics aren’t perfect, but we sure try hard and are there to celebrate our wins and find solutions for the rest.
Jamie D. Rosson, PharmD, BCPS: When I used to talk to my father about feeling burned out with pharmacy, he would always encourage me to not lose sight of why I became a pharmacist in the first place. Remembering my why has been helpful to get through hard days, weeks, or even years.
Colleen Patel, PharmD: I budget with a category for preventive health. Gym memberships, yoga, and massages are activities that help with nervous system regulation.... I encourage thinking of them as preventive health so you are more likely to choose to do them and look for options to improve your health.
Michele St. Pierre, PharmD: I tell my staff all the time when they are stressed that “I just ask for your best. Leave the rest.” I also show up with my A game and motivational skills to get us through each day.
Maritza Calderon, RPh: I am the only Spanish-speaking pharmacist in my area, which is more than 50% Latino. When I have my bad days, I think about my community and my patients, and the much-needed work that my staff and I are doing for them. That always gets me through my tough days.
Stephanie Lemm, PharmD: I decided I needed to set my own metrics as a pharmacist [for] what would make me proud of the work I’d done that day. Some of mine include making my technician laugh or giving a vaccine and getting a “Wow, I didn’t feel a thing” response.
Anna Rikard, PharmD, BCGP: I had the impostor syndrome where I was trying to keep everything together [at] work [and] home. I forgot to take care of myself. It’s OK to say no, because leadership is about showing the best version of you.