Pharmacists play an important role in improving patient health, and it can be hard for them to fulfill this role if they aren’t properly taking care of themselves. A study presented Friday at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting & Exposition in Seattle, Washington explored the factors that contribute to pharmacists' well-being for providing the best care.

Pharmacists work in complex settings, with some community pharmacists being required to stand for up to 12 hours at a time, skip lunch breaks, or avoid bathroom breaks. This overwhelming workload can lead to occupational fatigue, or burnout. Occupational fatigue is defined as mental and physical state that inhibits a worker’s ability to function, and it can be brought on by excessive workload, according to presenter Taylor Watterson, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy.

The study created a survey to measure the fatigue of pharmacists, looking at the work systems, the process of being a pharmacist. This includes the physical environment they’re practicing in, the tools and technology they have access to, and the culture of the organization. The survey also looked at outcomes, including job satisfaction, patient safety, quality, retention, and pharmacist burnout, according to the presentation.

Pharmacists were asked to describe their feelings of burnout over the past 2 weeks, including their fatigue levels, or whether they felt their energy decrease on a scale-based response system.

A majority of the 115 respondents were white female pharmacists with an average age of 39 years. Exactly 50% of these pharmacists worked in the hospital or institution setting, and most for 9.5 hours per day.

The survey found that most respondents found their energy decreasing throughout the day, felt tired later in the day, felt fatigued, had trouble thinking clearly, forgot whether or not they completed a task, took longer to do certain tasks, and felt they were not performing at their best, according to the speaker.

Watterson noted that this survey was conducted at a conference, where pharmacists were able to reflect on their fatigue, and may have trouble recognizing it while they’re experiencing it. Recognizing when you’re fatigued and learning to take a break when you experience it is crucial for pharmacists to overcome this, she said.


Watterson T. Testing a Pharmacist Occupational Fatigue Survey. Presented at: American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting & Exposition; March 22, 2019.