How is pharmacist burnout handled?

The growing trend of overworked pharmacists has worsened over the past three years, raising concerns about patient health and safety.

Pharmacists play several roles. They are not only responsible for dispensing medications in a pharmacy or facility, they often interact with patients, manage staffing issues, interact with prescribers, and perform other important roles.

“Pharmacists were already on a collision course with burnout before the pandemic,” says Heidi Polek, licensed pharmacist and strategic program manager at DrFirst.

Pharmacist Emad Wahba hands Sheila Vance, 66, a free Medicare-covered COVID-19 home test at a CVS in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington, DC, Monday, April 4, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images/Getty Images)

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“No matter how hard or how long they work, the clock wins,” she says. “Nearly three-quarters of pharmacists surveyed in a recent survey said they did not have enough time to care for patients safely and perform all clinical services provided at the pharmacy.”

This shows, Polek adds, that burnout is more serious than a matter of pharmacists needing a vacation.

“Patient health and safety are at risk when pharmacists lack the staff and resources they need to do their job safely,” she adds.

According to Polek, many pharmacists want more time for patient care, to take on more of the much-needed healthcare services that led them to become pharmacists in the first place.

“And patients today have confidence that pharmacists will be available to do more of their family’s basic health care, such as drug therapy management, disease screening and treatment programs. flu and COVID, and in many states triage and care for minor ailments,” Polek said. “If we don’t tackle pharmacy burnout, we risk losing the trust of patients and the momentum it took generations of pharmacists to achieve.”

So what can be done? Experts share that there are several strategies that can be implemented to fix this problem.

Elderly woman in mask receiving COVID-19 vaccine at pharmacy by female pharmacist.

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Use technology to streamline workflow

Burnout is easier to treat and less likely to occur in pharmacies that use technology for optimal efficiency, Polek says.

“Automation and artificial intelligence are relieving pharmacists of rote tasks, such as putting pills into bottles, getting insurance approvals, and following up with doctors for pre-approvals,” she says.

Streamlining workflow reduces data entry and other tedious tasks safely, so pharmacists can do what gives them energy and purpose, Polek says.

“They need enough time to provide clinical services to their patients and the resources to keep patient safety front and center,” Polek continues.

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Restrict working hours

Dr. Rima Arora, Director of Pharmacy at DiRx Health, says a policy restricting pharmacists’ working hours to the standard 40 hours per week should be enforced. “The best way to do this is to have adequate staffing, so pharmacists can maintain high-quality work without feeling burnt out,” she says.

Another strategy is to ensure that pharmacists have lunch breaks. National pharmacy chains like CVS have implemented lunch breaks for pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

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“To ensure that our pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are at their best, we have implemented a pre-scheduled, uninterrupted lunch break in all of our pharmacies,” said Amy Thibault, CVS Pharmacy spokesperson. “The break gives our CVS Pharmacy teams a predictable and consistent daily break while minimizing disruption to our patients. Most of our pharmacies are now closed from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. local time.”

The pharmacist fills the prescription for amoxicillin

Hospital pharmacist Selena Ko reconstitutes the motorized antibiotic amoxicillin and measures doses for pediatric patients Nov. 10, 2022, at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Eliminate task-based metrics

In response to feedback from its pharmacy team members, Walgreens is eliminating all task-based metrics for retail pharmacy staff as part of their performance reviews.

“This decision is a catalyst to allow our pharmacists to focus even more on patient care and outcomes,” said Walgreens spokeswoman Erin Loverher. “This is a step we are taking to help foster a work environment that allows pharmacists to practice at the top of their license.”

Loverher explains that pharmacists are now measured on the steps they take to provide exceptional patient care and customer service, rather than metrics.

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“This move creates a differentiated work environment at Walgreens,” says Loverher. “It’s also part of a broader investment to create efficiencies behind the counter and give pharmacists more time to focus on delivering patient care and clinical services.”

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She says enabling Walgreens pharmacy professionals to focus on the areas for which they are licensed and provide expanded patient care not only helps them better serve our communities, but also enables more fulfilling, purpose-driven work. goals for their team members.

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