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    Balancing Act: Dealing with Stress in the Pharmacy

    It's no news that pharmacists are stressed, but how is it affecting job performance—and how do pharmacists cope?

    For many pharmacists, there are long hours, less staff support, more reimbursement challenges, and a growing list of pharmacy services being offered to customers.

    One pharmacist described it as running on a treadmill with an ever-increasing incline. Another described the “downward spiral” that may lead many pharmacists to become apathetic or disinterested in their job, or feel they have lost control.

    These added demands can quickly and easily lead to burnout.

    Related article: How to Cope with Residency Stress

    But before pharmacists think of hanging up their lab coats, experts say there are tools and strategies that can combat burnout and help restore balance and wellbeing—at the pharmacy and at home.

    “A lot of pharmacies and pharmacists in a community pharmacy setting are really getting hammered these days,” said Erin Albert, MBA, PharmD, JD, Chief Executive Officer of Pharm, LLC, in Indianapolis.

    Mounting Stress and Increasing Workload

    The Pharmacy Workforce Center, Inc. based in Alexandria, VA, has examined pharmacists’ work habits and satisfaction levels every five years as part of the National Pharmacist Workforce Study.

    The last report, released in April 2015, focused on feedback from pharmacists. Two-thirds of those who answered categorized their workload level as high or excessively high and 64% of full-time pharmacists reported that their workload had either increased or greatly increased compared to one year earlier.

    QuoteIn addition, the report found that 45% of those surveyed believed their workload had negatively impacted or very negatively impacted their emotional and mental health. For 68% of chain and 63% of mass merchandiser pharmacists this also meant that there had been negative or very negative impacts on the time they were able to spend with patients.

    In late 2016, Drug Topics surveyed pharmacists as part of an annual salary survey and found similar results. At the time, 72% of pharmacists surveyed said their workload had increased over the past year and 63.4% reported higher stress levels. The most common reasons named for the growing stress were increased work volume, inadequate staff support, increased paperwork, and a negative work environment.

    Read more: Pharmacy Salary Survey 2016

    Maria Marzella Mantione, PharmD, CGP, FAPhA, an Associate Clinical Professor at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy andMaria Marzella Mantione, PharmDMaria Marzella Mantione Health Sciences in New York, said that the setting itself is often a source of stress for many in community pharmacy.

    “There’s no organization to what’s going to come at you. There are no appointments. There’s no balancing of the workflow—of the job. You could have ten people walk in with ten prescriptions in one hour, and then nobody walk in the next,” she said.

    That lack of control can create a feeling of helplessness that can often lead to burnout.

    “You are always on the defense, it’s very difficult to be on the offense,” Mantione said.

    Up next: What stress does to job performance

    Jill Sederstrom
    Jill Sederstrom is a Contributing Editor

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