Long gone are those days when a pharmacist’s job was limited to dispensing medicines. Today, the scenario is different as these healthcare professionals establish a more meaningful connection with patients (and not merely customers).

In the 2020 Gallup annual survey, pharmacists ranked among the top five ‘most trusted professionals’ for the 18th year in a row. The primary reasons why this profession secures a spot each year are the honesty, ethics, and accessibility of a pharmacist.

Did you know that there are presently 44,900 pharmacies across the US? This number is a 3.5% increase from the previous year. However, the expanding role of a pharmacist brings with it certain pros and cons.

This article will discuss how a pharmacist’s contribution to society has changed and what its implications are for the professional.

From Medicine to Patient-Focused Approach

The turning point in a pharmacist’s role in the care continuum was the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Over time, pharmacies became the center for treatment, vaccination, and patient care. Many patients’ sole access point to life-saving medicines was their humble, local pharmacy.

This way, the (healthcare) professional renowned for reading prescriptions and dispensing medicines made a more patient-focused shift. Today, they attentively listen to patient symptoms and offer the most beneficial and quick-recovery solution.

All of this has naturally trickled down to the root of pharmacy education and training. The syllabus is based on a need-gap analysis to include areas like telehealth, people-centered care, and pharma sustainability. The palpable curriculum shift is evident even in PharmD online programs designed to meet a student’s need for learning flexibility.

According to the University of Findlay, the field of pharmacy is undergoing its era of growth and change. Pharmacists are not just interested in distributing drugs; they actively participate in improving drug therapy through physician and nurse collaboration.

As pharmacists join the frontline to deliver quality patient care, they’re heavily using the help of next-gen technologies. One example is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze patient records, diseases, and drugs for higher medicine success rates.

Other tech-driven trends to watch out for include wearable device integration, data analytics, bioprinting, and in-silico testing.

Most Common Reasons for Pharmacist Stress

On one side, pharmacists are raising the bar of quality healthcare. On the other, their move beyond the bench is causing much stress. The Pharmaceutical Journal stated that nearly three-quarters of the pharmacy workforce is ready for premature attrition.

The survey was originally conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) between September and October of last year. At least 73% of the respondents considered quitting their jobs, a glaring contrast from 32% the year prior (2021).

Are the reasons tied to just a lack of career growth or salary issues? No, these only formed a minor group. The following two are the top reasons why pharmacists do not wish to continue in their profession:

Increasing Work Demands Due to Staffing Shortages

Yes, the industry is already facing a staffing shortage. This has put undue pressure on those working in the field. While stress is high in other professions as well, a pharmacist’s decision can easily become a matter of life and death.

Some pharmacists working in community centers complain that they work long, isolated hours to achieve a grueling set of metrics. It’s almost as if the primary focus has shifted from patient care to number care.

But pharmacy is not a field where you set out to attain a specific quota. This snatches away work control, all the while increasing the risk of patient anger and impatience. Some pharmacists sadly confess that not a day passes without being yelled at by patients.

Complaints may range from delays in dispensing medicines to understanding the insurance process. Despite this, the pharmacist is required to be compassionate and understand that their patients may be on the heels of a frightening diagnosis.

Poor Pharmacy Management

This is an extremely common issue in the field of pharmacy. There’s even an insider joke about the Peter Principle – being promoted until an individual reaches their point of incompetence.

In some cases, managers are willing to let patient care take the backseat while they focus heavily on revenue. This can be a dangerous scenario that crushes a pharmacist’s morale and drive to work. But in most cases, the problem is a major communication gap.

Perhaps the managers are not approachable enough and employees find it stressful to discuss their concerns. Add to that poor leadership, and teams that should be working towards a common goal become divided among themselves.

Ways to Prevent Burnout

Let’s look at the different ways in which a pharmacist can prevent burnout from affecting their health or work. The higher management of a pharmacy must also play a proactive role in ensuring employee job satisfaction. They must see to it that colleagues get along with each other and work towards better patient care.

At this level, the pharmacy can implement the following measures to take care of its employees’ well-being –

  • Providing proper leadership training to staff
  • Basing salary and incentives on performance and not just productivity
  • Encouraging strict work-life balance
  • Providing sponsored mental health appointments every few months to address any concerns
  • Promoting a culture of supporting self-care, time-offs, and team fun time away from work

Pharmacists can also take some personal measures to prevent external factors from getting to them. It all starts with identifying the signs of stress and burnout. These include –

  • Feeling a general sense of apathy and exhaustion
  • Feeling so depleted that one doubts their capacity to meet job requirements
  • An increased mental distance from one’s job and colleagues
  • Loss of motivation
  • Being constantly irritable or moody

Once the early signs are spotted, it’s time to immediately spring into action. Burnout, if allowed to fester, will only turn uglier – depression, anxiety, and increased isolation. The following are ways in which clinical pharmacists can handle burnout better –

  • Regular exercise, preferably amid nature like a run in the woods or forest bathing
  • Practicing good sleeping habits, which include getting at least six to eight hours of sound sleep each night. Some may need to practice additional strategies to tackle elusive sleep.
  • Eating a balanced diet rich in good fats, protein, fiber, and vitamins or minerals. Also, it’s best to avoid grazing on snacks throughout the day.
  • Scheduling a self-care check-in every few weeks to ensure mental health remains unhampered. This could involve weekly counseling sessions or a simple relaxing meet-up with close friends.
  • Sometimes, the best way to cut off the stress is to establish and enforce strong boundaries. Is the manager subtly pressurizing to give in to unethical work practices? The best thing to do is to stick to one’s convictions and hand in the notice.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been considering the thought of becoming a pharmacist, now is the time to take the plunge. As this article makes it clear, there are challenges involved. But, with a proper awareness of where the problems lie, you can take necessary measures to preserve your mental health.

Countries worldwide are dispensing greater autonomy to pharmacists, given their expanding roles. One instance is that of Ontario, which has bridged the gap between common ailments and patient care. Pharmacists across the province are authorized to recommend medical solutions for 13 common health issues.

For those genuinely interested in healthcare and helping people, what profession could be better than that of a pharmacist?