Preventing Pharmacy Preceptor Burnout

SEPTEMBER 25, 2014
In 1990, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy mandated the Doctor of Pharmacy degree for entry-level practitioners within the profession.1 Within that curriculum, 30% of the education was to be delivered as experiential education via pharmacy preceptors, thus making preceptor a vital position within the profession.2

Preceptors often modify their daily tasks to ensure that students will be incorporated into their daily activities. Although precepting students can be self-gratifying, it requires an incredible amount of work and thorough preparation, frequently predisposing preceptors to burnout.

Burnout has been defined as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishments that can occur in individuals who do "people-work" of some kind.”3 Burnout tends to occur when an individual experiences too much stress for a prolonged period.4 It has been estimated that nearly one-third of all health care professionals suffer from burnout phenomenon.5 Preceptors experiencing burnout tend to become emotionally detached, perform careless errors, and lower their goals and aspirations, along with generally treating students and others poorly. This phenomenon is a serious matter and possibly results in poor patient satisfaction and in deprivation of learning opportunities.

Several methods have been identified to assist in the prevention of preceptor burnout. It is highly recommended that preceptors develop a syllabus that covers student expectations and aids in the planning of activities. Strong communication on day 1 of rotation may decrease stressful situations that can occur throughout the rotation. The preceptor is encouraged to designate downtime during which students may complete selected assignments while allowing the preceptor to complete additional essential tasks. In all, the focus of the recommendations are on decreasing stress within the workplace while creating a life balance.

  1. Vos SS, Trewet CB. Experiential education: a comprehensive approach to preceptor development. AM J Pharm Educ. 2012;52:528-534.
  2. Woloschuk DM, Raymond CB. Development and evaluation of workplace-based preceptor training course for pharmacy practitioners. Can Pharm J. 2012;145(5)231-236.
  3. Maslach C. Burnout: the cost of caring. Cambridge, MA: Malor Brooks; 2003.
  4. Bruce SP. Recognizing stress and avoiding burnout. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning. 2009;1:57-64.
  5. Boisaubin E. The University of Texas Medical School Lecture. September 2011.

Clarence D Moore, Pharm D, BCPS
Clarence D Moore, Pharm D, BCPS
Clarence D. Moore, PharmD, BCPS, is an assistant professor at Howard University College of Pharmacy and has a clinical practice site in the Hematology/Oncology unit at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC. He earned his doctor of pharmacy degree from Howard University College of Pharmacy in 2011 and pursued a PGY-1 pharmacy practice residency at Shore Medical Center in Somers Point, New Jersey. After his residency, he completed a hematology/oncology fellowship before entering academia. However, providing optimal pharmaceutical care within underserved communities continues to be his passion. Furthermore, he has developed interests in medical mission work and community outreach projects.