Achieving a Healthy Work/Life Balance in a Pharmacy Career

Burnout often results from long hours, a highly regulated industry with a lot of change, and just the nature of health care in general.

I created The Pharmacist’s Guide in 2015 as a social platform to promote wellness in health care professionals. Although it was originally conceived as a way to explore a creative side and inject inspiration into our profession, along the way, I realized that health care workers didn’t necessarily need more inspiration.

Instead, we need an outlet to address burnout, to take care of ourselves (we take care of everyone else), and ultimately to create a meaningful career. After a journey, both physically and mentally, I now know the importance of wellness and self-renewal, but this wasn’t always the case.

A few years ago, I was feeling pretty stuck. I entered pharmacy school full of excitement and hope with the promise of graduating with a great job and the ability to help people—a win-win.

But along the way, my focus had drifted and my passion waned as I was on the emotional exhaustion side of burnout. I was using my pharmacy knowledge, as well as my MBA, and I kind of liked the work I was doing. But overall, work felt like a big drain instead of something that energized me.

Because of my husband’s profession—he was a medical resident at the time—I also felt somewhat like my career was in limbo. I really did like my job as I saw growth, worked with an amazing group of people, and was getting great experience, but I was kind of letting my career happen to me instead of designing a niche and diving into an area I was passionate about.

After 5 years in North Carolina, my husband finished residency and we moved to another state for his career. As a result, I had to leave my current position that I liked, but also left me feeling seriously burned out as I was trying to balance the demands of a new family.

I didn’t realize truly how exhausted I was until I stepped back for a few months and had the opportunity to go back to work in a similar role. I’ve never said no to a job and I’ve never had very much time off between positions, but when I was offered a position in our new city, I physically felt sick.

So, I took a little time off, which was good in that I did not jump from one job to the next trying to find the perfect fit. Instead, I had to dig deep and really figure out the fit that would work best for me and my family.

During this time, I started exploring a creative outlet that I missed: writing (I started out in college as an English major). In 2015, I started a blog called The Pharmacist’s Guide on a platform called Weebly and also started to build a social media presence via Instagram.

On the right platforms, I could share inspiration and connect with people in a meaningful way that also connected with me. It was not much to start, but I knew that I wanted to take that time of transition to use my blog and Instagram to begin to bridge the gap between my profession and passions.

Eventually, my small blog grew and I invested in a better platform and some branding; however, to be completely transparent, I felt torn. I felt stuck between wanting to jump full force back to traditional pharmacy work while still recovering from the emotional exhaustion or putting all my efforts into blogging.

I felt stuck between wanting to spend time with family and needing to have alone, uninterrupted extra time working to achieve my goals. All I knew was that I wanted to do something different within pharmacy to elevate our profession, but the steps to move forward were not completely clear.

As I started to gain a small platform and connect with pharmacy students and pharmacists from around the world, I also noticed that, unfortunately, many of them were unhappy in their jobs just as I had been early in my career. By addressing burnout, self-care and some other wellness principles, I was able to help them gain a little more clarity in what they wanted and what they needed to create a more meaningful career.

The more I saw that the wellness message was hitting home the more I delved into content that connected with my audience. Throughout that feedback, I sought to add some inspiration and positivity to a profession that can be monotonous.

Some of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned through this journey:

  • We need to have some balance in our careers. Whether we are creating space by having a passion project or setting boundaries so that we have more time off. Boundaries are not just about turning your phone off at night and leaving work by 5 pm. Boundaries are also about understanding what you need to do so that you don’t build up resentment and anger within. Balance will be elusive until we start to understand what is meaningful to us and prioritize those things.
  • Growth takes time. While I would love to find the job of my dreams on the first try or become an overnight success in some line of work, that’s usually the exception not the rule. Career growth requires you being open and taking those small steps to better yourself in your current situation. Action begets action. From there, the next door will usually reveal itself when you are ready and have put in some of the background work, whether that be working on your emotional mindset or physical habits.
  • You don’t have to quit your job or take a long sabbatical if you are burnt out. Understanding what you need for self-renewal and building the habits around it are key for thriving in your career. Burnout often results from long hours, a highly regulated industry with a lot of change, and just the nature of health care in general. It’s also more prevalent in students and new practitioners. But, by building your resilience, understanding the why behind your work and learning to manage your stress, you can build those wellness rituals into your day to day before burnout becomes a mountain too big to climb.

There’s a lot to be said about gaining experience and figuring out what works and what does not especially early in our careers. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all approach to our professional happiness and I also don’t think there is going to be a path that elicits instant gratification.

By incorporating wellness techniques, good nutrition, exercise, and healthy sleep habits, you will ensure that you are in the best mindset to not only perform well, but to jump on the opportunities in front of you.

After taking a few years off, all while nurturing The Pharmacist’s Guide, I did jump back into a full-time hospital pharmacy position. That time away really helped me gain clarity on not only the work that I liked to do, but the fit that I needed to make a career work while balancing a family.

Just like anything in life, growth is a process. We try one thing, see if it lands, and pivot or evolve from there. My wish for you is that you find an area in your career that feels meaningful to you.

That you learn what your body and mind need to feel healthy. That you take action on your goals and that you use these principles to build a career that you love.