HOPA Seeks to Develop Different Types of Burnout Metrics for Oncology Pharmacists

Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA, president-elect of Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA), discusses ways to address burnout in the hematology/oncology space.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA, president-elect of Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA); senior manager of pharmacy cancer research at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center; assistant professor of pharmacy in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine; and director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Pharmacy Shared Resource, on details of the upcoming HOPA 2022 conference as well as her plans for the direction of the organization as she steps into her role as president of HOPA this year.

Alana Hippensteele: Hi, I’m Alana Hippensteele with Pharmacy Times. Joining me is Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD, BCOP, FHOPA, president-elect of Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA); senior manager of pharmacy cancer research at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center; assistant professor of pharmacy in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine; and director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Pharmacy Shared Resource. Heidi is here to discuss the upcoming HOPA 2022 conference as she steps into her role as president of HOPA this year.

You discussed burnout and how deep the impact of this has been within the pharmacy field. What has been your experience of burnout taking place among medical colleagues in the field of oncology during the pandemic and how has that impacted the workload of oncology pharmacists?

Heidi Finnes: I think all health care workers have experienced some burnout during the last 2 years of COVID-19—I think we all share the common passion to taking care of patients and doing the best things that we can.

But I've also seen that in oncology, a lot of the workload didn't decrease during that timeframe, because patients with cancer still needed to be treated, and we needed to be novel in how we came up with some of those treatments, which required long hours and an extra workload.

So, I like to joke with our Investigational Drug Service that we kind of threw every standard operating procedure or policy out the window and reinvented ourselves during that time. I think that one of the things that I've learned during COVID-19, with regards to burnout is it's okay to admit that you're feeling burnout.

One of the things I try to do with my colleagues in our group here at Mayo Clinic is something we call an “okayness spectrum,” where I really look at or ask them questions about how they're doing, you know, in their personal life, how their workload is going, and how they're feeling to kind of come up with an overall assessment. But I think what it highlights is we need wellness resources for everyone.

I'm very lucky in that, at a large institution like Mayo Clinic, we do have those resources, and those people dedicated to referring staff members who are really experiencing burnout. But other people don't have those resources, and I think that's why HOPA’s very passionate about—and I'm very passionate about—continuing the development of those resources so that people can keep that passion, but have a realistic work-life balance.

I think one of the things we really need to do is come up with different types of metrics. I don't exactly know how to do that, or how we will do that, but again, we’ve created a taskforce to help analyze what is needed and how we need to go about doing that to deal with what people experience on a day-in and day-out basis.

Alana Hippensteele: Absolutely. What are some key trends in the hematology/oncology space that you will be keeping an eye on this year?

Heidi Finnes: I think again, the novel approach to care. I think ways in which we traditionally saw patients always face-to-face are going to be very different. There's a lot of murmurings of the use of home health to administer some medications to patients, which will be very different, I think, for those of us that potentially weren't involved with that type of care.

But I think it also gives us an opportunity to figure out how do we as pharmacists, maybe that aren't part of that health care organization care for those patients still, do we do a video visit like this to ensure patients are educated about their regimens, to check for toxicities, or even touch base to be sure that things are going well, and to be a resource for that nurse.

I think it's one of the things to keep tabs on. I don't know that that will happen all that quickly either. But just the novel ways in which we can participate in the care of patients with cancer, whether it be by mailing investigational drugs, if we continue to do that, monitoring patients from afar on clinical trials—I think those are all going to be things of the future that we need to embrace, as well as technology.

We've seen such an advancement in wearable technology during COVID-19, where you get an iPad mailed to your home with a blood pressure cuff, a temperature monitor, and those types of things. So will that translate into CAR-T programs or other care mechanisms for patients with cancer is yet to be determined, but I think it's an exciting time—not to say anything good came out of COVID—but these advancements, I think, are exciting opportunities for patients.