I am grateful to those who identified my burnout and supported me to make changes and reverse the syndrome.
I was hired by the Iowa Pharmacy Association (IPA) Board of Trustees in July 2011, with an official start date of January 1, 2012. I was honored to be selected and had high aspirations for fulfilling my duties as the IPA’s eighth executive vice president and CEO. It was an incredible honor and, even more so, an incredible responsibility to serve the members of the IPA and continue its strong tradition of leadership, innovation, and collaboration.
I had everything in place to hit the ground running. A strong staff. A supportive board. Dedicated mentors who were a quick call or email away. A predecessor offering to help generously or stay out of my way. And most importantly, to me, a loving family willing to make sacrifices for my success. My husband, Bob, encouraged me to apply for the position and commented, “It won’t be 50/50 at home. I’ll do more so that you can be all the places and do all of the things you need to do to succeed.” And my parents were always willing to travel from Wisconsin for me, Bob, and our young family.
And so, I hit the ground running. Sprinting. I wanted to make a difference. Our son was 6 months, and I was pregnant with our daughter. I wanted to exceed the expectations that others had for me. I wanted to personally solve all the problems that crossed my desk from any Iowa pharmacy professional. In retrospect, the expectations I placed on myself were unrealistic. Yet in the moment, it felt like that was what I needed to do, what I was supposed to do. But as 2013 closed out, I cried every day. For several weeks. At home and at work. I like to think I was still effective at the office, but things slipped and I know I wasn’t leading our team. When I needed it most, I didn’t reach out to mentors, colleagues, or friends. I was going through the motions at home, but I was disengaged from my husband and 2 children. I was burned out, and I couldn’t recognize it for myself.
Thankfully, others helped me recognize that I was deep into the 5 stages of burnout. My husband and parents thought I was depressed—they weren’t necessarily wrong—but it was the IPA executive committee, during my annual review, that addressed my professional burnout. I am grateful to those who identified my burnout and supported me to make changes and reverse the syndrome.
It meant developing boundaries and honoring them. It meant recognizing, and accepting, what I could do as an individual and what the IPA could do. It also meant prioritizing and delegating, making tough decisions and hiring help at home. For me, this included medication. I don’t have enough pages, but the details of these changes and boundaries are the critical elements of how I personally overcame burnout.
Although my professional burnout story is from 5 years ago, it has come back into focus and recent conversations as I attend our 2019 IPA Goes Local events across the state. In partnership with the Iowa Medical Society and the Mervyn Group, these events focus on burnout syndrome and what can be done by individuals, leaders, and organizations to reverse it.
Once again, I continue to learn and be inspired by Iowa pharmacists. I’ve been inspired to share my own burnout story because I know I am not alone. Together, we can learn from one another, support one another, and overcome the shame associated with burnout. Individuals who care deeply about their profession and their work are at great risk for experiencing burnout.
Naturally, IPA members are also the pharmacy professionals who care deeply about the profession. This connection is one of the many reasons the IPA focuses on burnout and resilience through prioritizing focus, programs, research, and resources.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any level of burnout, please know that the IPA, and your colleagues, are here for you.