Managing Burnout in the Pharmacy

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Physical symptoms of burnout can include headaches, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, and increased susceptibility to illnesses due to a weakened immune system.

Pharmacist burnout is a serious concern due to the demanding nature of the profession, especially in health care settings. Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion often accompanied by feelings of detachment, and reduced effectiveness in work or daily life.

Image credit: nicoletaionescu | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: nicoletaionescu | stock.adobe.com

It is typically the result of prolonged exposure to chronic stress and overwhelming work demands. Burnout can affect anyone, but it is commonly associated with individuals in high-stress professions or roles. Per studies, more than 51% of pharmacists are experiencing burnout.1

Burnout often begins with emotional exhaustion, in which individuals feel drained, overwhelmed, and emotionally depleted. They may experience persistent feelings of fatigue and depletion of emotional resources.

It can lead to a diminished sense of personal accomplishment and decreased self-esteem. Individuals may feel that their efforts are futile or that they are no longer making a meaningful impact in their work or life.

Physical symptoms of burnout can include headaches, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, and increased susceptibility to illnesses due to a weakened immune system. Burnout can impair cognitive functions, leading to difficulties with concentration, memory, and decision-making. Individuals may struggle to focus and concentrate.2

Burnout is often the result of chronic stress that persists over an extended period. This stress may be related to work, personal life, or a combination of both.

Factors contributing to burnout at work can include excessive workload, unrealistic job expectations, lack of control or autonomy, unclear job roles, poor organizational support, and limited opportunities for advancement or growth. A lack of sufficient time for rest and recovery, both physically and emotionally, can exacerbate burnout.

A continuous cycle of stress without adequate relaxation can lead to burnout. Individual characteristics, such as perfectionism, a strong need for approval, or difficulty setting boundaries between work and personal life, can contribute to burnout.3

To prevent and address burnout, pharmacists can consider the following advice:

  • Self-Care is Priority
    • Prioritize self-care and well-being. Ensure you get enough sleep, eat healthily, and engage in regular physical activity.
    • Allocate time for relaxation and leisure activities that you enjoy and use this time to recharge.
  • Effective Time Management
    • Efficiently manage your workload by setting realistic goals and priorities.
    • Use time management tools and techniques to help you stay organized and focused.
  • Delegate When Possible
    • Don't hesitate to delegate tasks that can be handled by support staff or colleagues when you're overwhelmed. Effective delegation can help reduce your workload and stress.
  • Establish Boundaries
    • Set clear boundaries between work and personal life. Avoid taking work-related calls or emails during your personal time.
    • Communicate your boundaries to colleagues and supervisors to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Continuous Learning
    • Stay updated with the latest developments in pharmacy but avoid overwhelming yourself with excessive continuing education requirements.
    • Focus on learning that directly benefits your practice and interests.
  • Seek Support and Collaboration
    • Engage in regular meetings with colleagues to discuss challenges and share experiences.
    • Collaborate with health care teams and other professionals to ensure effective patient care and reduce individual burdens.
  • Mental Health Awareness
    • Recognize the signs of burnout and prioritize your mental health.
    • Seek support from mental health professionals if you're experiencing persistent stress, anxiety, or depression.
  • Take Regular Breaks
    • Make use of your scheduled breaks at work to relax and recharge. Step away from your workstation during these times.
    • Short, regular breaks can improve focus and reduce stress.
  • Practice Stress Relief Techniques
    • Incorporate stress relief techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine. These practices can help manage stress and promote mental well-being.
  • Time Off When Needed
    • Don't hesitate to take time off when you're feeling overwhelmed or experiencing burnout symptoms. Vacation and personal days are essential for maintaining long-term well-being.
  • Speak with Your Supervisor
    • If you're consistently feeling overwhelmed, discuss your workload and concerns with your supervisor or manager. They may be able to provide additional support or resources.
  • Professional Support Groups
    • Consider joining professional support groups or organizations for pharmacists. These groups can provide valuable resources, networking opportunities, and a platform to discuss common challenges.

Burnout can have significant consequences on an individual's physical health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life, as well as job performance and relationships. It's essential to recognize the signs of burnout early and take proactive steps to address it.

This may involve seeking support from a health care professional, making lifestyle changes to reduce stress, setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and, in some cases, considering changes in work or life circumstances to prevent or alleviate burnout.

Remember that pharmacist burnout is a legitimate concern and seeking help or making changes in your professional life is not a sign of weakness but a proactive step toward maintaining your well-being. Prioritizing self-care and seeking support when needed are crucial for preventing and addressing burnout in the pharmacy profession.

References

  1. Dee J, Dhuhaibawi N, Hayden JC. A systematic review and pooled prevalence of burnout in pharmacists. Int J Clin Pharm. 2022 Nov 29:1–10. doi: 10.1007/s11096-022-01520-6. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36446993; PMCID: PMC9707850.
  2. Maslach C, Leiter MP. Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry. 2016;15(2):103–111. doi:10.1002/wps.20311
  3. Scott E. How to Recognize Burnout Symptoms. What to Do When Your Job Is Stressing You Out. https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-and-burnout-symptoms-and-causes-3144516. Accessed on September 2, 2023.
  4. Shanafelt TD, West CP, Sinsky C, et al. Changes in burnout and satisfaction with work-life integration in physicians and the general US working population between 2011 and 2017. Mayo Clin Proc. 2019; 94:1681–1694
  5. West CP, Dyrbye LN, Shanafelt TD. Physician burnout: contributors, consequences and solutions. J Intern Med. 2018; 283:516–529
  6. Han S, Shanafelt TD, Sinsky CA, et al. Estimating the attributable cost of physician burnout in the United States. Ann Intern Med. 2019; 170:784–790.
  7. Weichel C, Lee JS, Lee JY. Burnout among Hospital Pharmacists: Prevalence, Self-Awareness, and Preventive Programs in Pharmacy School Curricula. Can J Hosp Pharm. 2021 Fall;74(4):309-316. doi: 10.4212/cjhp.v74i4.3192. PMID: 34602618; PMCID: PMC8463022.
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