Tip of the Week: Managers Have the Power, Responsibility to Mitigate Workers’ Emotional Exhaustion

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Burnout among pharmacy team members can be minimized through workflow adjustment strategies and cultivating a positive workplace culture.

Burnout is receiving greater attention in the pharmacy field and throughout the health care community. Practitioner burnout can impact not only their own wellbeing but also has ramifications for patient care. A recent management tip discussed the use of a professional sabbatical to provide pharmacists with time to rest and recharge. However, sabbatical leave may not be an option for many managers, and more conventional and typically accessible methods are needed.

Those experiencing burnout are dealing with a more complex issue than simply being overworked. Burnout actually consists of 3 components: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. It is important for managers to assess their working conditions and the culture of the workplace to determine which types of burnout staff may be experiencing.

Kraus et al. assessed burnout among an entire pharmacy department, including pharmacists, resident pharmacists, interns, and technicians delivering both inpatient and outpatient services. This study was unique because it measured the 3 drivers of burnout—emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of personal accomplishment—among all employees of a department, rather than only the pharmacists. Researchers used the Maslach Burnout Inventory and found problematic levels of emotional exhaustion, even while levels of depersonalization and personal accomplishment were acceptable. The free response portion of the survey revealed potential causes and correlations to the burnout being experienced, including poor communication, coworkers demonstrating a lack of organizational citizenship, technology glitches, staff shortages, interruptions, meetings, and email fatigue.

Many of the aforementioned factors are a component of the organizational culture within the workplace. As such, managers should ask themselves if they are cultivating an environment that allows staff the autonomy to take adequate breaks and seek other remedies that can mitigate emotional exhaustion. Study participants suggested that managers should focus on workflow adjustments, staffing, and creating a more positive ethos in the department. They should also help promote fairness and hold employees accountable for their actions, while role modeling transparent communication. Additionally, all department personnel should be trained on appropriate email use such as limiting those copied on an email thread to only those necessary or even scheduling time for brief morning meetings so as to decrease the number of emails encountered on a daily basis.

Promoting a culture of wellbeing in the workplace can be accomplished by scheduling a small block of time within the workday for pharmacy staff to accomplish miscellaneous activities that arise, such as short meetings, catching up on emails, or other tasks that require their attention. Additional suggestions are dedicated project time, education on stress reduction, and encouraging breaks or time off.

Importantly, Kraus et al. found that burnout was not impacted by shift type, hours worked, or years of experience in pharmacy. These results underscore the fact that burnout is not simply a manifestation of the amount of work, but rather, factors related to the nature of the work environment. It also demonstrates that all employees are potentially susceptible to burnout, regardless of experience level. Pharmacy managers have considerable sway in fostering a healthy workplace climate that mitigates burnout and helps promote employees’ sense of accomplishment.

More information about Implementing Value-Added Pharmacy Services can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

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

Kraus S, Gardner N, Jarosi N, McMath T, Gupta A, Mehta B. Assessment of burnout within a health-system pharmacy department. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2020;77(10):781-789.