Kristen Nichols, PharmD, and senior content management consultant for clinical effectiveness at Wolters Kluwer joins Drug Topics® to discuss holiday burnout in part 3 of this interview.

December 2, 2021


Drug Topics®: Can you tell me a little bit about the last 2 years and how health care providers can manage burnout during the upcoming holiday season and flu season?

Kristen Nichols, PharmD: Gosh, this is also a very important question. And I feel the pressure because I'm not sure that I'm, you know, the optimal expert. I did suffer from burnout of my own a few years ago, pretty significantly, and so, I can share my thoughts and what I did to get through that from my experience. 

First, I think that pharmacy leaders are people who are in positions of power and influence at our retail pharmacies [and] high up in hospitals. I think these people should really be advocating for fair staffing models and for doing things from a structural perspective that make a pharmacist’s job possible. I think [that] we often hear, you know, “Do all the self-care,” without recognizing that we really need to address the root of why people feel so overwhelmed and why they don't have the resources to do what they need to do. I think it's really important for our leaders to really step up here. 

That being said, we are often not in control of the stressors—and especially with COVID-19, we can try and do all we want, but the problems still persist. There's a book that I really like; it's called Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by twins Emily [Nagoski, PhD] and Amelia Nagoski [DMA] and it talks about the importance of completing your stress cycle, which I have found to be really beneficial.

What that means, essentially, is ensuring that you complete that stress cycle after you have an acute stressor. The most important—or the best way—to do that is actually through physical activity. But, there are other ways to do that, whether it's through affection and close relationships or [through] some type of creative self-expression like dancing or writing. I do think it's really important to get enough sleep; sleep can really help us deal with our emotions and think things through a little bit more clearly. 

And then a lot of pharmacists—a lot of health care providers—are very type A [and] very hard on themselves. They expect themselves to be able to, you know, carry the weight of the world and fix everything. So I think self-compassion is really important…I say that with a grin because I think it's really challenging to have self-compassion. When I say that I mean, you know, cutting ourselves a break, going a little bit easier on ourselves, not expecting so much from ourselves during a given day... You know, when you've had a really rough day, not expecting to come home and cook a picture-perfect healthy meal and clean your house top to bottom; give yourself time acknowledge and deal with your stress. 

And I think that finally, just keeping perspective can be helpful, in terms of remembering what's the purpose? Why do you do what you do? Who are you helping? Keeping the things that you're grateful for in prospective, even if it's just, you know, “I'm taking care of these patients who don't have x, y and z, but I have this warm house and I have a comfortable bed and I have plenty to eat. But I don't have control over some of these things like the staffing shortages or the people who get irate.” You can't control those, so just [try and] remember that.

Drug Topics®: That's lovely advice, thank you so much. I think a lot of pharmacists can definitely relate to that and will really appreciate those tips. Do you have any final key takeaways or thoughts that you would like our audience to know for this flu season?

Nichols: All I can say is that getting as many people vaccinated against the flu and vaccinated against COVID-19, I think, will really be key to getting society as close to back to normal as we can.

Drug Topics®: Thank you so much, Kristen, this has been awesome.