Tip of the Week: Professional Sabbatical Leave Could Help Alleviate Burnout

Although it may not be feasible in all situations, professional sabbatical leave could be a win-win for both pharmacists and their employers.

Despite the many opportunities and increasingly diverse career paths for pharmacists, burnout is a widespread issue. It can result in unhappiness, poorer patient care, and a lack of new and innovative ideas for how the pharmacy care process might be improved. The professional sabbatical is a concept we ordinarily think of for academic professors, but it is a potentially viable win-win for pharmacists and their employers.

Leung et al. conducted a systematic review of the literature on professional sabbaticals and offered considerations for health system pharmacists.1 Although much of the literature concerned sabbatical for academics, there was a growing number of articles regarding engineers, public health workers, nurses, physicians, midwives, and a couple from the pharmacy field. These reports were not always found in original research literature, but in commentaries, editorials, and letters to the editor.1

These articles point toward how professional sabbatical leave can serve as a source of renewal and increased opportunities for growth. The professional on sabbatical benefits from recharging, gathering new ideas, and observing new processes, organizational cultures, and systems at an alternative venue. Furthermore, the professional’s employer benefits from the fresh perspectives offered by the sabbatical employee upon their return.

The literature also provides insight into how one can position themselves to be a premier candidate for sabbatical and how to approach employers with the idea, should an active program not already be in place. The authors provide a number of considerations for a hospital pharmacist sabbatical, including clear eligibility criteria and selection process; clear goals of the sabbatical program; requirements after the sabbatical; funding considerations for the program; and proper communication of the program’s existence, policy, and procedures.1

The authors also described a mini-sabbatical program offered by the Mayo Clinic’s Rochester pharmacy department. Recipients have protected time equal to 0.2 full-time equivalents incorporated into their schedule and can obtain advanced certifications or can acquire some outside experience. Based on the expected need to backfill certain areas, a floater pharmacist is hired to fill open positions. In the past several years, their sabbatical recipients have acquired advanced degrees, published 10 peer-reviewed articles, obtained funding from 4 separate grants, and advanced their careers.1

If leaders and employers are to really treat pharmacists as professionals, then opportunities for sabbatical should become more commonplace. Although these programs may be more feasible in larger health systems, there are opportunities for sabbatical programs in corporate community pharmacy, as well. In any setting, there must be a mechanism to fund each sabbatical, but visionary thinking will see that the cost-benefit ratio for most sabbatical programs will be exceptional if executed properly. Managers should be open to the idea of sabbatical, or at least some sort of program allowing their top performers to develop and recharge. Meanwhile, pharmacists should be supported and confident enough to identify opportunities and present the case for sabbatical leave in the absence of a more formal program.

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

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

REFERENCE

Leung JG, Barreto ER, Nelson SB, Hassett LC, Cunningham JL. The professional sabbatical: A systematic review and considerations for the health system pharmacist. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2020.16(12):1632-1644.