5 Tips to Regain Focus During Your Pharmacy Shift

Working in high-stress conditions makes it hard to maintain focus.

Summertime means overtime for many pharmacists.

Often, these extra hours are combined with extra road miles to cover vacations in chain stores or sister outlets. Combine these with the added stress from increased traffic due to allergies, injuries, poison ivy, and support staff vacations, and you have a recipe for fatigue and poor concentration.

At the beginning of a long stretch, you feel ready to take on any challenges that come your way. But, as the hours and stress begin to mount up, all you can think about is surviving until your next day off.

On a particularly stressful summer afternoon about 10 years ago, I thought, “I’m done, but my shift isn’t over for 6 more hours!” A twang of fear pulsed through my chest as I realized the dangerous implications of that thought.

This fear kept my attention strong for the rest of my shift, but when I arrived home that evening, I immediately sat down and created a 5-step plan for regaining focus and staying at the top of my game.

Many pharmacists complain that they don’t have time to engage in such an activity. Pharmacists must remember that patient lives are at stake, and resolving and reporting mistakes takes an incredible amount of time. So, regaining focus is not optional; it’s an obligation!

Step 1: Take a walk.

One lap around the Wal-Mart where I work is often enough to get my concentration back. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I simply look at the pharmacist I am working with and say, “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”

If I am working by myself, I excuse myself to use the restroom, and then I stand still with my eyes closed and take at least 6 deep breaths, take care of business, and slowly wash my hands and face. Then, I re-enter the pharmacy as an entirely new person.

Step 2: Strike up interesting conversations with customers.

Whenever I feel rushed, I ask customers questions, such as “Where did you get that awesome hat?” Then, I listen intently to their stories. This takes me right out of the grind.

Step 3: Use a different part of your brain.

Sometimes my staff gets annoyed because I will stop and text, e-mail, or Facebook message a friend or 2 on my iPhone in the middle of a big rush. Personally, I would rather irritate a coworker than hurt a customer.

When I know I’m struggling to stay in the game, I simply escape into my phone for 3 to 5 minutes, and then I am able to get back to work safely and efficiently.

Aside from using your phone, you could try solving a word search puzzle. Circling a few hidden words challenges your brain in a different way and allows the pharmacist part of your brain to rest and recover.

Step 4: Eat a healthy snack and drink a lot of water.

Although health care professionals know the devastating effects of dehydration and dropping blood glucose levels, many claim they are too busy to eat an apple or fill up their water bottle. This is simply lousy and irresponsible.

The amount of work accomplished by a well-hydrated and well-nourished worker more than makes up for the time spent at the refueling station.

Step 5: Turn up the music.

Sometimes, a superhero needs a theme song.

A few minutes spent listening to the right music can really lift your spirits and give you that boost needed to not only survive a long shift, but also hit it out of the park.

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By incorporating these 5 steps into my work routine, I enjoy my job exponentially more, and I know for a fact that my error rate has deceased dramatically. It’s okay if you don’t like any or all of them, but approaching the bench without a fatigue and attention management plan of your own isn't okay.

Your customers and patients are depending on you to manage yourself wisely!