Coping Strategies Against Burnout for Pharmacy Employees

A 2017 study conducted in the USA showed that the burnout rate among clinical pharmacists is 61.2%.
Author Avatar

Every year, millions of healthcare workers, including pharmacists, go beyond simple fatigue and experience professional burnout. This condition can be compared to a deep, dark pit, from the bottom of which it is almost impossible to get out without help. Therefore, as soon as you notice that the ground under your feet has begun to slip and you are no longer so confident in your love for your profession, take urgent action: use coping strategies to avoid falling into the trap of burnout.

Fatigue, frustration and cynicism

As a concept, professional burnout was first proposed by clinical psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. Back in the 1970s, while working in a clinic, he noticed that exorbitant demands from employers emotionally exhausted many employees, making them tired, frustrated, and cynical. Later, the theory of professional burnout was supplemented by Christina Maslach, who defined this phenomenon as a combination of a decrease in personal satisfaction, depersonalization (loss of a sense of self), and emotional exhaustion.

People of all professions are prone to burnout, but it is of particular importance for those working in the healthcare sector, as it can potentially affect not only their own well-being but also the well-being of others. For example, a recent meta-analysis showed that physician burnout leads to a decrease in their professionalism, which negatively affects patients.

Effective customer service and the prevention of medication errors are the most important tasks of pharmacists, so their professional burnout is no less dangerous than that of doctors. However, pharmacy employees are more susceptible to it than other healthcare professionals. The main risk factors are heavy workloads, additional and bureaucratic responsibilities, conflicts with customers, and poor relationships with managers.

At the management level

Reducing the likelihood of burnout requires a multifactorial approach. Both pharmacy employees and their managers, whose task is to create a positive working environment, must address this problem. An example of preventing professional burnout at the organizational level is the strategy of Stanford Hospital, which recently created the position of a health director whose task is to diagnose and prevent emotional burnout of other employees in time.

Raising awareness of the symptoms of burnout is the first and most important step that pharmacy management can take to protect its employees. After all, many people with initial symptoms of burnout simply do not understand what exactly is happening to them and cannot objectively assess their condition.

In addition, given that burnout often occurs due to stress when communicating with management, pharmacy managers should be more careful with their words, praise and encourage employees more often, emphasizing the value of their contribution.

Your choice of

However, no matter how much the pharmacy management cares about the emotional health of employees, in the fight against burnout, it is up to the drowning to save the drowning. And to overcome the stress that leads to burnout, each pharmacist must choose the most appropriate “coping strategies” (from the English word “coping” — to overcome). This concept, which reflects how we solve problematic and difficult situations, was introduced and developed in detail by psychologist Richard Lazarus. The author divided all strategies into two large groups:

  • Problem-focused coping tries to solve the problem by directly affecting the stressor to reduce or minimize it.
  • Emotional strategies help to cope with stress by changing the point of view and attitude to the problem.

In other words, in the first case, we try to comprehend the problem, look for a way out of the situation, and act. In the second case, we try to return to a good mood, maintain a sense of humor, or remove ourselves from what is happening around us. Research shows that both approaches help mitigate burnout. It is only important to choose the appropriate coping strategies.

  • Enjoyable pastime. A 2018 study of postgraduate pharmacists found that staying optimistic, engaging in enjoyable activities, and spending time with family and friends were among the most effective strategies to mitigate burnout. In fact, this approach is a kind of running away from problems or distancing oneself from them. A person seems to say to himself: “My real life is spent with friends and family, and it brings me joy. And everything related to work and study is secondary. These are just temporary difficulties that need to be overcome.” This attitude helps to “dilute” the negative emotional background and avoid burnout, but it does not help to overcome problems.
  • Resistance and confrontation. Although this is a very aggressive strategy, it really helps many people to cope with difficulties, especially if they are objective and concrete. Any problem should be perceived as a personal enemy that needs to be defeated as soon as possible. People who choose this strategy defend their beliefs, fight for their rights, and defend their position to the last. Thanks to their pressure, they often do win, for example, by achieving a salary increase, a fair distribution of responsibilities, or a reduction in additional workload. However, if the threat is not serious, their overly aggressive approach can only do harm.
  • Search for social support. In a stressful situation, we really need support. We need someone who can confirm that we are right, take our side, praise us, or just sympathize with us. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is one of the best ways to reduce stress in situations involving interpersonal conflicts and various problems. For example, the easiest way for a first responder to let off steam after dealing with an inadequate client is to tell a colleague about the incident or share an unpleasant story with friends or family in the evening.
  • Positive reassessment. Seeing the good in everything is one of the most effective ways to prevent burnout. Even in the most difficult situation, positive emotions can “recharge” us, add fuel to the fire, and prevent our fire from burning out. Very strong and rational people manage to perceive any difficulties as a lesson taught by life and draw conclusions for the future. Others manage to take comfort in the fact that this is not the worst thing that could happen to them. Still others have no choice but to laugh at the situation. By the way, psychologists say that the ability to see humor in any situation can play a more important role in mitigating stress in women than in men.
  • Planning for problem solving. This is perhaps the most difficult problem-oriented coping strategy, as it requires responsibility, a deep understanding of oneself, and considerable willpower. First of all, you need to accept the situation, i.e. realize your proximity to emotional burnout. Then, you should analyze your own mistakes that complicate things and draw up a detailed plan to counteract the problems. Such a plan can look like a detailed schedule for a week or a month ahead, which will include sports training, walks, hobbies, relaxing with friends, and time with family. You should also create a menu of healthy foods that help you cope with stress, sign up for yoga, visit a psychologist, and learn meditation. As for work, set a goal before planning it. Highlight the main thing that is important in your professional activity (whether it is making money or helping people) and work on it, trying not to be distracted by trifles.
Scroll to Top