Pharmacists are in a tough spot as they deal with ever-decreasing staff support and an everincreasing workload.
The fact that pharmacists are considered “essential personnel” means that somebody has to be there to open the pharmacy. It is nearly impossible to leave early for an appointment or take a sick day. This makes for an unbalanced work/life cycle.
The results of the latest Pharmacy Times® Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey showed that on a scale of 1 to 7 (with 1 being “not at all” and 7 being “extremely”), of 580 respondents rating their job satisfaction, the average response was just 4.23. The top 3 reasons given for their dissatisfaction were workload, management, and work/life balance (see part 2 of this article series).1
Before reaching the point at which burnout occurs or health suffers, pharmacists should evaluate their work/life balance. This may mean something different to everyone, and it is up to each individual to figure out what it means to them. But work/life balance should be fluid. Sometimes, more effort needs to be put in at work, such as during immunization season or on inventory days. Other times, more energy should be invested in personal time, such as family vacations.
TIPS TO MAINTAIN SANITY
There is a finite amount of time every week for everyday life, family, and work. It is important to remain cognizant of where the time goes in order to make changes.2,3
- Delegate tasks. Get groceries delivered or order them online and just swing by the store to pick them up. Have a lawn service mow the lawn and shovel the snow. Hire a cleaning service for the house and send out laundry for cleaning. Those who live with other people should not shoulder the burden of all the household chores.
- Hire a personal assistant. This person can return correspondence, run errands, and take children to and from school and help with their homework. Virtual personal assistants can also be very helpful.
- Investigate options. Does the company allow a flexible schedule? If not, can an exception be made? Compressing the workweek into four 10-hour days and job sharing are viable options for pharmacists. Also, more companies than ever are hiring telecommute pharmacists who focus on order entry, preverification, and postverification of prescriptions.
- Make a plan. A daily to-do list for work is essential to keep focused on the tasks at hand and use time wisely. Put family time on the calendar. If a plan is not in place, it is easy to lose oneself to the plans and priorities of others.
- Minimize interruptions. Being interrupted while performing a task requires double to triple the amount of time of the interruption to fully regain concentration on that task.
- Opt out of junk mail. It takes less than 3 minutes to opt out for 5 years. Call the consumer reporting company at 888-5-OPT-OUT. This saves both trees and one’s sanity.3
- Organize errands into batches. Then figure out the most efficient route to take to save money spent on gas and time.
- Say no. It is OK to respectfully say no. We should never commit to things we do not want to do, whether it is out of a sense of guilt or obligation. Agreeing to such tasks not only takes time away from enjoyable things, it also increases stress. • Set boundaries. Leave work at work. Let others know not to call, email, or text during off hours for issues regarding work unless it is an absolute emergency. Communicate the same to family members and friends during work hours.
- Stay healthy. Adequate sleep can curb inflammation, improve focus and memory, and lower stress. Exercise strengthens the heart, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease. Exercise allows us to sleep better, helps the body manage blood sugar and insulin levels, and improves mental health. Having an emotional support system has many positive benefits. Those with strong support systems have better coping skills and higher levels of well-being and lead healthier and longer lives. Healthy foods, such as the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, lean meats, and vegetables, provide the body with the nutrients it needs to increase stamina and well-being while allowing the brain to focus and learn. Hydration has myriad benefits, including increasing brain function and energy levels and maximizing physical performance.
Finances play a big role in a healthy work/life balance. We have all heard the saying “The borrower is slave to the lender.” Many pharmacists want to change jobs or work part time but think that they are unable to afford to go back to school or take a pay cut. The key to taking control of finances is to live below one’s means. Put simply, do not spend more money than is earned. There are several steps to regaining control over finances:
- Step 1. Create a budget by calculating income and expenses. Subtract the latter from the former. A positive number indicates living within one’s means, whereas a negative amount indicates living beyond one’s means, and some adjustments may be warranted.
- Step 2. Track spending. It is always a good idea to know where one’s hard-earned money is going. Having to record spending provides the opportunity to give conscious thought to whether that purchase is really necessary.
- Step 3. Reduce meaningless spending. When creating a budget, evaluate each expense. Unused subscriptions, such as gym memberships, magazines, and movie streaming applications, add up quickly over the course of a month.
- Step 4. Renegotiate some bills. Call companies, such as those that provide auto, home, and property insurance; cable, cell phone, internet, satellite television, and utilities services; and trash pickup to ask about negotiating a better deal.
- Step 5. Right-size life. Some people may find that their house is too big, and they may want to downsize. This lowers the mortgage payment and saves money on utilities. Those who have too much stuff may want to donate or sell items they do not use regularly. Car owners with hefty auto loan payments may want to unload that vehicle and purchase something less expensive. With a career as stressful as pharmacy, an acceptable work/life balance is essential for staying healthy and productive. It is possible to attain a better work/life balance by making changes to reduce stress and increase time for enjoyable activities.
- Antrim A, Murphy J. Pharmacists are content with their salaries, less so with their jobs, survey shows (part 1). PharmacyTimes.com. November 21, 2019. pharmacytimes. com/news/pharmacists-are-content-with-their-salaries-less-so-with-their-jobs-surveyshows-part-1. Accessed January 17, 2020.
- Mayo Clinic. Work-life balance: tips to reclaim control. mayoclinic.org/healthylifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/work-life-balance/art-20048134. Accessed December 8, 2019.
- Cahn L. This is how you can stop getting so much junk mail — for good. Reader’s Digest. rd.com/advice/how-to-stop-getting-junk-mail/. Accessed December 8, 2019.
Kathleen Kenny, PharmD, RPh, has more than 25 years of experience as a community pharmacist and is a freelance clinical medical writer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.