Expert: Pharmacists Experienced Decline in Self-Care During the Pandemic

Theresa McArdle, MBA, senior brand marketing manager at Pharmavite, to discuss new survey data that showed a decline in self-care among pharmacists coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Theresa McArdle, MBA, senior brand marketing manager at Pharmavite, to discuss new survey data that showed a decline in self-care among pharmacists coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alana Hippensteele: What did the survey data show regarding pharmacists’ self-care coming out of the pandemic?

Theresa McArdle: Yeah. So, the survey really showed that pharmacists have had an increased burden placed on them as a result of the pandemic. They've been working longer hours and have additional demands that have become part of their job, and so 30% of those that we surveyed actually report that they have started to take worse care of themselves than before the start of the pandemic.

Alana Hippensteele: That's fascinating and really unfortunate. What did the survey data show around any potential sources of this decline in self-care among pharmacists?

Theresa McArdle: So, 62% of the pharmacists that we surveyed actually said that it was these new kind of work commitments and just added demands that were placed on them that just increased their stress level and really led to this decline in their self-care practices.

Alana Hippensteele: Right. What might be some of the habits that led to this, whether it be work habits or personal?

Theresa McArdle: Yeah, so I think pharmacists, as with many people, as soon as we get stressed or have to take on a lot more, often the things that are most beneficial for us become some of the first things to go. So, things like not eating properly, not getting enough sleep at night—those things really did kind of contribute to the decline.

On a positive note though, we did see that 8 out of 10 of the pharmacists that we surveyed have said that they've maintained their VMS routine, so continuing to taking vitamins and things that would help kind of supplement their health and wellness routine that maybe didn't take a ton of additional effort. So, that was encouraging to see.

Alana Hippensteele: Is this seemingly specific to pharmacists, this decline in self-care, or are there other health care professionals who may be experiencing similar issues?

Theresa McArdle: This is definitely not unique to pharmacists. While pharmacists are what the focus of this study was, we know that healthcare professionals across the board just really were impacted by the additional stressors and demands that came from the pandemic.

We did, however, do a study with nurse practitioners near the beginning of the pandemic, and 54% of the nurse practitioners said that they were feeling the increased demands placed on them were resulting in an inability to focus on self-care. So, it's definitely universal in the health care professional community.

Alana Hippensteele: Right. Why might pharmacists be particularly prone—although there are many in the health care profession who are also experiencing this—to this difficulty around self-care?

Theresa McArdle: So, pharmacists have always played an integral role in the patient care team, and that role has just been expanded even further as a result of the pandemic.

Pharmacists tend to be more accessible than a lot of health care professionals, so they're having a lot of these interactions with patients, working longer hours, and just absorbing some of the burden that is coming from just the pressure that's being placed on the entire health care system, which has really kind of led to this increase in stress on pharmacists in particular.

Alana Hippensteele: Right. Did the survey data elucidate any specific measures that might help to support better practices around self-care among pharmacists?

Theresa McArdle: Yeah, so as I mentioned earlier, while the data shows that there's been a decline in self-care overall, the fact that 8 out of 10 pharmacists are still prioritizing taking their daily vitamins and supplements, I think, is encouraging because it shows that taking these little steps that don't maybe require as much effort are still important to pharmacists as they are looking for ways to maintain their overall health and wellness as the pandemic continues.

Alana Hippensteele: Right, and what are some specific self-care practices that pharmacists could start to incorporate today during the workday to support their mental health and well-being?

Theresa McArdle: Yeah. So, there's definitely a few things that can be done right away, and even though sometimes it seems like you don't have a moment to get away, even taking 5 to 10 minutes just to kind of step away from your workspace and practice just a little bit of mindfulness or even going for a walk—that change of scenery, fresh air can really be a great reset.

Last, but not least, just drinking a lot of water. So, keeping that water bottle close to you and making sure that you're staying hydrated can also be really helpful for self-care.

Alana Hippensteele: Yeah, absolutely. What is the value of pharmacists committing to their self-care, as well as that of their patients?

Theresa McArdle: So, for pharmacists, and I think many health care professionals, it's so important to take care of themselves and kind of practice the advice that they're giving to their patients because when the pharmacist is taking care of themselves, they're able to better take care of those patients that are coming in.

So, it's making sure that they're feeling good and in a good place to be at their best for those patients who are interacting with them on a regular basis.

Alana Hippensteele: Right, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Theresa.

Theresa McArdle: Yes, thank you.