Travel Season Promises High Volume, Stress for Pharmacists

The combination of holiday travel and seasonal illnesses is a prescription for stressful work environments.

Surviving the holiday season is always a challenge, but pharmacists are in for it this year.

On top of the usual throng of patients needing last-minute prescriptions, pharmacists can expect to see more unfamiliar faces as holiday travelers seek reprieve from cold and flu symptoms, stomach upset, and other seasonal illnesses. According to a recent survey conducted by Walgreens and Orbitz, more than 40 million Americans plan to travel this holiday season. Among them, 25% reported having holiday trips interrupted by illness in the past.

The survey also identified prevention as a major concern of patients, many of whom take advantage of pharmacy services to help them stay healthy while traveling. Compared with other preventive measures, flu shots ranked high on travelers’ priority lists, with 29% saying they get one as a practice. Frequent handwashing with soap and/or hand sanitizer was the most common prevention tactic.

To stay on top of it all, pharmacists should encourage patients to get their flu shots right away—before the holiday rush is in full force. Patients may also need to be reminded of these basic tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for staying healthy during winter travel:

  • Create a “travel health kit” that includes items like tissues, OTC medications, soap, and hand sanitizers.
  • Travel only when you feel well.
  • Cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue or your upper arm, not your hands.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.

Although there’s no avoiding this busy time of year, pharmacists should also remember not to get so distracted that they neglect their own mental and physical health. For strategies to cope with heavy workloads and long hours this season, read “Beating Behind-the-Counter Job Stress,” featured in the October issue of Pharmacy Times.

In the article, Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP, offered advice that rings especially true during the hectic holiday season: “Connect compassionately with people. Ditch the detached, hurried persona. Take a couple of minutes to really listen to people,” she wrote. “Often you’ll come away from the conversation feeling much better yourself.”

For other articles in this issue, see:

  • PharmD Student Reinvents Hepatitis Dosing
  • Medicare Part D Price War Breeds $2 Generics
  • Target Prescription Vials Win Design of the Decade