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    Five Tips for Surviving a 12-Hour Pharmacy Shift

    It's something every pharmacist knows well—the long shift. Here's how to make it a little more bearable.


    We should have seen this coming. Working a 12-hour shift in a retail pharmacy is not exactly like a long day in any other job. The stress and physical demands of a 12-hour work day were a bit much. Schools were getting complaints from employers that their grads couldn’t handle the rigors of these marathons.

    Clock on the wallAnd so, academia responded. All the 6th year pharmacy students had to complete a month-long rotation at Gold’s Gym before graduation. Lectures on medications declined. They were replaced with motivational TED talks, and lectures from military survival experts and long-distance running coaches. Usain Bolt was asked to deliver the commencement address.

    Sure, corporate executives, consultants, and other healthcare professionals may work late. But a 12-hour, always-standing, busy, break-free, distracting environment which demands 100% focus because patient lives demand it is becoming par for the pharmacy course today.

    The following are a few tips from someone who has worked his fair share of 12-hour shifts himself.

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    Jason Poquette, RPh
    Jason Poquette is the director for outpatient pharmacy services at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., and an APPE preceptor for ...


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    • Anonymous
      Ugh, reading your article makes me regret ever going to pharmacy school even more
    • [email protected]
      Hi Jason, I'm unsure if most of this is serious or tongue-in-cheek humor - I personally like the humorous parts! As an ultramarathoner and 25+ year pharmacist, and someone trying to change the exact unacceptable working conditions you mention -- NO pharmacist should work a 12-hour shift as the number of medication error rates skyrocket, the physical and mental negative impacts wrack the body and system, etc. -- I'd have to offer up some amendments to your first and third points, but these are secondary to pharmacists starting with a firm "No way" to the 12-hour shift request/requirement of some employers. For example, you should NOT focus on carbs if you're into endurance - blended carbs, proteins, fats, electrolytes and your last two points (footwear and hydration) are needed. Continual intake of carbs only make the system work less efficiently over long periods of time. Receptor downregulation and desensitization, and systems-wide adjustments over time, make caffeine intake ineffective over the long haul and only set the system up for hardships if/when caffeine withdrawal happens. Best to not depend on it in the first place but certainly not to use it long term. (My PhD was on adenosine pharmacology - the main receptors of caffeine's actions...) Mental preparations are crucial for any success (I'm also a positive psychology coach so this is definitely preaching to the choir on this point) BUT even the best mental prep will be brought to its knees if there are other and continual mental onslaughts and physical hardships. My recommendation here is to focus on the PROBLEM(S), not the supposed solutions. Again, nice piece if this is more humorous but I'm afraid it is more serious than that? Gary Keil, PhD, RPh
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