Facing Challenges of Burnout, Pharmacies Seek Ways to Support Staff

Along with expanding responsibilities, pharmacies must have the infrastructure and pharmacy staff must have sufficient support.

With heightened levels of burnout among pharmacists due to stress, increasing responsibilities, and challenging performance metrics, pharmacies across the country are looking for ways to support staff and develop an effective pharmacy care model.

There are several root causes of the widespread burnout, which was significantly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to heightened stress during the pandemic, ongoing frustration with pharmacy benefit managers, performance metrics, and the push for provider status have all contributed to increased stress levels.1

According to the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), educating patients, policymakers, and even pharmacy managers about burnout is essential to develop additional resources and realistic expectations for pharmacy staff. Importantly, APhA notes that pharmacists cannot provide adequate care to patients without caring for their own well-being.1

In addition to education efforts, improving the workflow in the pharmacy can significantly improve burnout. Efforts such as incorporating technology can give pharmacists more time to focus on patient-centric care rather than repetitive tasks, for example.

“Examples of enhancements include incorporating centralized prescription processing, improving our patient mobile app, and developing automated messaging for our patients,” Omer Gajial, executive vice president of pharmacy and health at Albertson’s Companies, told Pharmacy Times in an emailed statement.

Gajial added that Albertson’s also introduced a scheduling tool during the pandemic, which allows patients to schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, as well as other routine immunizations. Implementing solutions such as this could be particularly important as pharmacists take on significantly more responsibilities and make strides toward provider status.

Fully using technicians is also vital in the busy, stressful pharmacy environment. At Albertson’s pharmacies, Gajial said technicians can fulfill a variety of roles to give pharmacists more time to focus on direct patient services.

“Our pharmacy technicians are on the front lines of community health care,” Gajial said. “They not only focus on prescription fulfillment, but with appropriate training, our technicians are able to perform immunizations and assist pharmacists in preparing for clinical consultation services as well as providing point-of-care testing in several states. They are an invaluable resource for our patients while also enabling our pharmacists to spend more time caring for patients.”

High levels of burnout have also led to staffing issues for some pharmacies. To address this concern, Gajial said Albertson’s pharmacies have brought on additional recruiters, developed local partnerships, and are offering signing incentives.

“We have been reviewing the tools and systems our front-line teams use every day and looking for ways to streamline workflow so that our pharmacy teams can do what they do best: provide high-quality patient care,” Gajial said.

Moving into the future, the pharmacy care model will continue to evolve to provide comprehensive care with a more holistic view of patients. Gajial said that the goal for Albertson’s pharmacies is to provide patient-centric, integrated care with an emphasis on accessibility for patients.

Pharmacists will also continue to expand services, including immunizations, consults, point-of-care testing, prescribing, mental health and substance abuse services, and veterinary care. Along with this expansion, however, pharmacies must have the infrastructure and pharmacy staff must have sufficient support to provide this care.

“In the long term, we will expand on these care services, introduce new convenient solutions, and continue to invest in innovative solutions to help our customers manage their health more effectively,” Gajial said.

Reference

  1. APhA: Pharmacist burnout hits breaking point, impacting patient safety. News release. American Pharmacists Association. December 17, 2021. Accessed July 20, 2022. https://pharmacist.com/APhA-Press-Releases/apha-pharmacist-burnout-hits-breaking-point-impacting-patient-safety