Burnout: Self-care Is Not the Answer

Pharmacy Times, May 2022, Volume 88, Issue 5

Here are 9 tips for employers to address employees’ feeling of detachment, exhaustion, and reduced accomplishment.

Limited resources, staffing issues and heavy work schedules can lead to burnout. Female pharmacists may be affected disproportionately because they often juggle household and work to a greater extent than their male counterparts. Pharmacists just starting their careers also often experience high levels of burnout because their inexperience means they tend to take longer to complete tasks.

Burnout is defined as emotional exhaustion, a feeling of being detached from other individuals or one’s work, and a reduced sense of accomplishment.

According to the results of a survey on the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the mental health of health care workers, the majority of respondents reported experiencing clinically significant psychiatric symptoms, including anxiety (75%), depression (74%), posttraumatic stress disorder (38%), and thoughts of self-harm or suicide (15%).1 Although health care workers experience burnout at an alarming rate, they are less likely to receive psychiatric care because of barriers such as difficulty accessing care, “heroic” health care worker myths, and the stigma around mental health issues.

Self-care often is recommended for those experiencing burnout. Suggestions from members of the Pharmacist Moms Group for dealing with burnout include getting a massage, meditating, praying, or reading a book. Although these are ways to manage stress, they do not address the underlying situation, which is often related to the work environment. Advocating for self-care also puts the burden of reducing burden on employees rather than requiring anything of employers.

Here are 9 ways employers can help reduce stress in the pharmacy:

1. Child care. Offer full or partial reimbursement for child care.

2. Scheduling. Allow everyone’s input into scheduling, especially for parents with children.

3. Encouragement. Explicit supervisor appreciation and encouragement go a long way.

4. Organization. Chaos breeds more chaos. Organizing the pharmacy is extremely important. Sometimes just looking for a stapler can cause undue stress at work. This can easily be eliminated by staying organized.

5. Leadership. Pharmacy leaders must speak up to protect and support pharmacy workers.

6. Incentives. Provide food, such as pizza, for employees on Fridays, the night shift, and/or the weekends. Incentivize those shifts that are less desirable and it will be easier to find those who are willing to work.

7. Outreach. Reaching out to coworkers who may be experiencing stress
is critical.

8. Transportation. With gas prices higher than ever, compensating employees
for transportation to and from work is a wonderful way to make them feel appreciated.

9. Treatment. Provide access to evidence-based psychiatric treatment and help erase the stigma so that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are not ashamed to seek help when they need it.

About The Author

Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS, is the chief academic officer at the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs and the founder of Pharmacist Moms Group, the largest group of female pharmacists in the United States, with more than 45,000 members.

Reference

1. Hendrickson RC, Slevin RA, Hoerster KD, et al. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, occupational functioning, and professional retention among health care workers and first responders. J Gen Intern Med. 2022;37(2):397-408. doi:10.1007/s11606-021-07252-z