Tip of the Week: Managing Work-related Stress and Burnout

March 18, 2021
Ashley Torres, MS; and Shane Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA

Pharmacists and pharmacy staff failing to deal adequately with stressors put themselves and their patients at risk through mounting frustration, tiredness, burnout, and commission of errors.

Some level of stress in pharmacy practice is almost inevitable, and this has only been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmacists and pharmacy staff failing to deal adequately with these stressors put themselves and their patients at risk through mounting frustration, tiredness, burnout, and commission of errors.

Jacobs et al. identified 18 literature reviews on stress management and prevention.1 Their analysis of these reviews suggest interventions proven effective in reducing and managing work-related stress can be placed into 1 of 3 categories: (1) individuals, (2) individuals-organizations, or (3) organizations, alone.

While all have at least some merit and applicability, strategies and interventions from the individual-organization level would appear highly beneficial in pharmacy, as follows:

  • Participation/engagement
  • Communication transparency
  • Skills training
  • Co-worker support
  • Autonomy
  • Effective and routine performance appraisals
  • Support from management
  • Teamwork
  • Role clarity
  • Conflict resolution training
  • Time management training

These strategies and interventions indicate shared responsibility among persons in higher levels of management and those on the proverbial front lines of care. Supportive behaviors are frequently listed and appear to be a “no-brainer”; yet during our own ego pursuits and investments, these behaviors do not clearly manifest as strongly or as frequently as they should. Persons often do not stop to think that providing support for a coworker, subordinate, or even to a supervisor often provides its own self-gratification, saves time for all persons involved, and often sees a return on investment in the way of citizenship and camaraderie. Additionally, no matter how good we might think we are, further development in both technical and in ‘soft’ skills, such as conflict resolution and time management, will help us feel more connected, more content, and less stressed. Supervisors obviously can provide role clarity, but employees can also do their part by seeking clarity in a firm, yet amicable and non-threatening way.

Implementing these strategies together can mitigate burnout, role conflict, and fatigue in staff and bear witness to reductions in customer complaints, medication errors, malpractice claims, and work-related accidents and injuries, as well as boosting morale, work satisfaction, and psychological well-being. The saying, ‘we’re all in this together’, has been widely used of late. Yet, we should not dismiss its meaning in spite of what might be its overuse in the mainstream or lay public. Pharmacy is at its best when organizations and its constituent employees work with one another to create human resources management solutions to the many factors that could impede our effectiveness.

Additional information about Managing Yourself for Success and Human Resources Management Functionscan be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

Ashley Torres, MS, is a PharmD candidate at Touro University California College of Pharmacy in Vallejo.

Shane Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy, at Touro University California College of Pharmacy.

REFERENCE

Jacobs S, Johnson S, Hassell K. Managing workplace stress in community pharmacy organizations: lessons from a review of the wider stress management and prevention literature. Intl journal Pharm Pract. 2018;26(1)::28–38.