Patients are relying on pharmacists more than ever as local pharmacies have expanded their services to keep up with the demands of their communities. According to the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, over 50% of pharmacists have indicated burnout. In the past year, pharmacists have had to go beyond their typical job duties in order to deliver patient care during a time where treatment is needed in mass quantity.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, pharmacists have been on the frontlines combatting the virus. In the early stages of COVID-19, pharmacists risked infection by not having access to PPE such as masks, face shields, and gloves. Now, they are facing a whole new challenge of burnout or “COVID fatigue” within their pharmacies.
Cause of COVID Burnout
While COVID-19 has caused significant burnout to the general population, it has especially impacted the pharmacists who work daily to support their patients. With pharmacies now offering COVID-19 testing, curbside pickup and delivery, and COVID-19 vaccinations, they have extended their hours with pharmacists working up to 12 hours a day with no break or lunch. The success of the COVID-19 vaccination program is due in large part to the efforts of community pharmacy over the past several months.
Pharmacies have also reported that they have seen an increase in daily scripts written. According to BMC Health Services Research, 90.8% of community pharmacists in a COVID-19 burden study reported that their workload has significantly increased during the pandemic. This increase is mostly due to patients stocking up on medications for chronic conditions and immune system supplements such as Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc. Additionally, the demand for safety equipment such as gloves, masks, and disinfectant products increased, resulting in many pharmacies running out of equipment to protect themselves against the virus.
Interacting with hundreds of patients also poses its risks. When businesses were shutting down to protect their customers and employees, many pharmacies were open as they were considered essential services. With pharmacists being on the frontlines, they are at an extremely high risk of contracting the virus. Many have tested positive for COVID-19 and needed to quarantine to protect others. Battling a virus is physically and mentally exhausting and having to self-isolate is even more detrimental to your overall health.
Signs You Are Feeling Burnt Out
Mental and emotional exhaustion can be taxing on one's body, mentally and physically. It is important to recognize any mental shifts that you have experienced such as increased stress, lack of sleep, loss of interest in activities, depression, or anxiety. Other physical signs of burnout can be headaches, a weaker immune system, or gastrointestinal issues. If you feel as though your lifestyle has been negatively impacted due to work stress, you may be experiencing burnout.
The Cost of Burnout
Burnout in pharmacies can be a costly challenge. Exhaustion can lead to oversight or inaccuracies that would be recognized if a person were well-rested. Additionally, burnout can lead to employee turnover which leaves room for neglect in patient’s care as well as a financial loss for the pharmacy to recruit and train another pharmacist, pharmacy technician, or staff member.
Tips On Combatting Burnout
To prevent burnout, pharmacy staff should prioritize their health first. Your overall health has a huge impact on how you feel mentally. Here are four ways to maintain good mental health:
- Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night
- Maintain a healthy diet and stay active
- Prioritize “me time” and do something for yourself that you enjoy
- Reach out for help and support from trusted sources
Feeling stress at work is common and will not be fully eliminated but combining these tactics can make it more manageable. If making these adjustments to your lifestyle don’t avail, you should consider speaking to your supervisor about some of your challenges.
How Pharmacies Can Help their Staff
Supervisors can play a key role in their employees' work-life balance. It is important to recognize any major shift in an employee's mental state because it can be harmful to your customers and your employee. Often, people are afraid to seek out help, but with managerial support, communication, and teamwork, you can help alleviate some of the stressors that appear at work. Additional training can be beneficial as many job roles have changed in the past year.
Mental health challenges should not be suppressed. If you are experiencing increased stress, anxiety, or depression, please ask for help by contacting a friend, family member, therapist, or by calling the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI.