Tip of the Week: Employee Coaching Can Combat Professional Isolation in New Pharmacists

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Managers can mitigate transition-related stress in new pharmacists by encouraging mentoring from senior staff.

The transition from a newly graduated pharmacy student to a full-time pharmacist is often associated with stress and a fear of making mistakes, while also getting acclimated to the profession and facing a momentous learning curve. The stress can be further exacerbated by a high workload and a lack of collegial support. Interventions to ease the transition period for new pharmacists have the potential to reduce stress levels and more effectively develop a new employee.

A recent study investigated the implementation of a coach-led intervention to provide newly registered community pharmacists with psychosocial support and facilitate the development of professional behaviors and skills. A cohort of 12 recently graduated pharmacists participated in a 17-week program led by a coach who had 14 years of experience as a community pharmacist.1 The coach was independent to the pharmacists’ employer, and those participating were each employed at different pharmacies.1

The lead study author acted as the coach, utilizing the GROW model (goal, reality, options, way forward) in coaching sessions to offer participating pharmacists a structured approach to debrief and reflect. The intervention utilized several methods including face-to-face workshops to establish rapport between coach and employee, group webinars, social media groups utilized as a peer support network, reflective logs, and a handbook.1 The social media group and coach were reported to be the most valued assets of the program, whereas webinars, reflective logs, and the handbook (a manual outlining challenges new employees commonly face) were not deemed as useful.1

Participants said the coach was a useful resource for professional advice as well as a confidant for discussing difficult situations.1 Many reported the coach as an asset when navigating feelings of inadequacy, with one participant stating that they might not have stayed at their current job without the coach’s support.1 Newly graduated pharmacists are often expected to perform at the same level of efficiency as senior pharmacists and having the support of an experienced coach can help new employees feel more confident in their performance. Many participants felt that they had adequate command over the requisite clinical knowledge, but the coach provided much needed advice on how to handle difficult situations and how to interact with coworkers and patients. These topics were things that the participants felt otherwise less equipped to handle.1

The social media group served as a support system for questions and general discussion of their daily work.1 Several participants said they were also involved in social media groups with other pharmacists within their organization, but the greatest benefit of these social media groups appeared to be the neutrality from their employer.1 Interviews revealed that some pharmacists did not feel safe to ask questions in their own workplace for fear of being perceived as incompetent.1 The majority of participants stressed the importance that the support groups and coach be outside of their organization.1

Feasibility of the intervention was assessed through 2 formal interviews of both the coach and pharmacists. Participants were interviewed twice: once during the 13th week and then again 6 months post-intervention to assess the benefit and feasibility of the program.1 Data indicated that the intervention was highly acceptable and valuable. The coach reported that the intervention was feasible to participate in without causing any undue stress.1 The second round of interviews, conducted 6 months after the program ended, revealed that pharmacists were thriving at their positions and reported high levels of autonomy and job satisfaction.1

Participants revealed that a significant challenge in transitioning into their new roles was a feeling of professional isolation.1 Many relied on the social media group as a support system as well as the coach for more individualized advice.1 Most participants reported that this intervention reduced professional isolation and stress related to the job transition.1

Professional isolation can be mitigated through interventions such as coaching and social media groups. However, a coach independent to the organization such as the one utilized in this study is not always feasible. Managers can encourage mentoring amongst senior and newly hired pharmacists to decrease transition related stress and pharmacies could invest in transition support programs for new pharmacist staff as a part of employee onboarding training. External coaches would ideally be contracted with pharmacies and hired solely as a coach to ensure neutrality. The authors also suggested that a coach-led program should be in place for at least 3 months to allow for sufficient time for gradual learning.1

In the interest of building support networks, partnerships can be encouraged with neighboring pharmacies to form social media groups for all newly graduated pharmacists to encourage professional collaboration and support. Coaching interventions are vital to reduce transition related stress and provide psychosocial support to less experienced employees. Providing additional support to new pharmacists can help foster employee loyalty, thereby increasing retention rates and benefiting both pharmacist and employer.

More information about Human Resources Management Functions and Organizational Structure and Behavior can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Ashley Woodyard is a PharmD candidate at Touro University California,

Shane P. Desselle, PhD, is a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy at Touro University California.

REFERENCE

Magola E, Willis SC, Schafheutle EI. The development, feasibility and acceptability of a coach-led intervention to ease novice community pharmacists' transition to practice. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2022;18(3):2468-2477.