Pharmacists May Not Realize They are Experiencing Fatigue in the Moment


In this clip, Taylor Watterson, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy, discusses the issue of pharmacists not recognizing when they are fatigued at work.

Taylor Watterson, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy, discusses the issue of pharmacists not recognizing when they are fatigued at work, in this clip filmed at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting & Exposition in Seattle, Washington.


  • Pharmacist Burnout Can Affect Patient Care
  • Complex Work Environments Can Lead to Pharmacist Fatigue


In a very similar model to what we found in nursing literature, as well as other organizations, these 2 demands of physical fatigue, as well as mental fatigue. So, for us, 1 of the surprising results in, kind of, this mental model, 1 of the things that pharmacists said did not actually occur all that often, or didn’t really relate to the other components, was this idea that they weren’t feeling pain or discomfort anywhere in their body. So, this was surprising to us. We thought this was the 1 thing that actually captures fatigue, or how we think of fatigue, but it didn’t necessarily match to the mental model through what the exploratory factor analysis showed. So, 1 of the unique things we were thinking about with our study, is maybe it’s all about how we ask these questions, but also, are pharmacists even cognizant of the fact that they’re fatigued?

We’re talking to some folks in developmental interviews as we’re working on our survey, and 1 of the pharmacists said “you know I’m able to go and go and go and I feel like when I’m in the pharmacy I’m on autopilot. I’m just working and working and working and working, and it’s not until I get home that it takes me an hour to decompress where I start to realize ‘oh my gosh my feet actually hurt’, ‘my gosh I have a headache’, ‘my back is hurting’.” Or the very standard case I feel like for a lot of pharmacies, where you don’t realize you have to go to the bathroom until after you leave for the day because you just never really have that time to stop and focus on yourself, because you’re also within the workflow or within focusing on tasks.

So, that kind of raises a very interesting question of 'are pharmacists cognizant that they’re fatigued in the moment?' And if we try to come up with interventions to solve fatigue, is that really going to be helpful? If we recommend that all organizations implement a break, and let pharmacists take breaks whenever they need them, are the pharmacists actually going to take breaks? I think that’s really interesting whenever we’re looking at some of the community pharmacies that used to offer lunch break for their pharmacies, and they were used primarily as just time for pharmacists to catch up on their work.

So, I think there’s a lot that needs to be done in how we measure fatigue, in how we are able to talk about fatigue and just having an open discussion about it and feeling comfortable to address whats going on within our environments to be able this discussion, and promote a conversation and a culture that supports our pharmacists and our health care providers and possibly works toward this quadruple aim.

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