Pharmacy professionals must prioritize their own mental health to help patients

Pharmacy management staying aware, connected and engaged is key to meeting the mental health needs of their staff.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed pharmacies in a vital role at the frontline of care, but increased demands for their services have also caused a subsequent increase in burnout among pharmacy staff. As such, it is just as essential for pharmacy professionals to prioritize their own mental health as it is for them to help their patients.

“There’s a difference between when you feel stressed and when you finally feel exhausted,” said Alex Varkey, PharmD, MS, FAPhA, director of pharmacy services at Houston Methodist Hospital, during from a session at the American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting 2022. “From a self-assessment perspective, understanding ‘ok, hey, am I just feeling stressed? Is this based on a particular incident or… am I starting to feel exhausted? ” Vakey said.

A useful tool to help determine if a person is burnt out is the Pharmacist Wellness Index (WBI). The assessment allows pharmacy professionals to track their professional well-being and monitor clinical burnout.

The WBI is a 9-question assessment that measures the dimensions of likelihood of burnout, severe fatigue, meaning of work, risk of medical malpractice, general well-being, and other factors. The report gives pharmacy professionals an overall score and allows them to compare it with the percentages of other pharmacy professionals.

Part of the WBI is the Distress Percentage, which is a measure of individuals whose results showed a high risk of distress. Professionals in great distress have a greater risk of suffering from burnout, poor quality of life, severe fatigue and making medication errors.

“I had those times where I felt drained and disengaged and stuck, and I had to pull myself out of that hole and figure out what can I do to get out of it?” Sara Wettergreen, PharmD, BCACP, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said during the presentation.

Regarding changes to burnout, Wettergreen said building resilience is key. She said that in the face of burnout, changing the response and the environment is helpful in practicing resilience.

Wettergreen added that doing joyful activities outside of work can help pharmacy professionals bring that same joy and energy to the workplace, and she emphasized mindfulness.

Wettergreen noted that working on “autopilot” at work can increase the risk of medication errors, so bringing more mindfulness to work would allow pharmacy professionals to really focus on the task at hand. Additionally, mindfulness can help individuals reflect on their exhaustion and fatigue, which can also reduce the risk of medication errors.

From an environmental perspective, Varkey said organizations need to address the mental health needs of their pharmacy staff.

“Leadership is important,” Varkey said. “We got into this because we wanted to help people. There is moral significance in this work, in helping our communities, in helping our patients. We need to help people in our profession rekindle that connection.

As part of these efforts, Varkey said it is essential to re-evaluate the resources available to these professionals. The presentation also listed 4 steps to help leaders identify resources that would be helpful to their staff in general.

The first step is to discuss with their staff to find out what matters to them in their daily lives. Then, identify the changes to be made, implement them and, finally, use the science of improvement.

Varkey said being mindful, connected and engaged with the pharmacy team is crucial due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an issue the scale of which has never been experienced by the modern healthcare landscape. previously.

Varkey said leaders need to better understand not only what’s happening in the workplace, but also the challenges their staff face at home.

Additionally, he said it was important for leaders to lead by example by also focusing on their own self-care, to enable them to be the best resources for their teams.

“I think we’ve gotten to a point where the word ‘joy’ seems trivial. It’s like, ‘you’re not supposed to like work.’ Yes, you are,” Varkey said. “There’s a sense of accomplishment that we’re supposed to get from our jobs, day-to-day. That’s why we went into the positions we’ve had.

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