We must tackle the causes of pharmacists' stress
Many people find their working lives are stressful. For a few people, stress is part of the adrenaline that drives them – there are a fair few of those in our current crop of politicians.
For others, stress eats away at their ability to do the job and overflows into their personal and family life. Yet having a pharmacist or other healthcare professional stressed through work could result in a poorer level of service and care to patients.
By the nature of their work, pharmacists are concerned about other people’s health and well-being. As pressures grow in the profession, it is time for more of us to be concerned about our pharmacists.
A survey by Pharmacist Support revealed just how stressed the profession is and the causes behind it. Over 60 per cent of respondents felt they needed support to deal with stress at work and 59 per cent thought they needed more support to adjust their work-life balance.
The report sought to get policy-makers to understand the environment that is being created by a series of measures which have impacted the profession in recent years.
Many of those put the reasons for stress down to the cuts that have had a large impact on community pharmacy. For independent owners, stress has been severe - their physical and mental health has suffered as they try to manage a business that is continuing to make significant losses each month.
For employees and locums, the pressure to deliver more within time and costs boundaries has grown.
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association has long understood the daily pressures endured by its members through the cases it represents.
Last year it decided to pay £1 from each membership subscription as a direct donation to Pharmacist Support to provide more resources for those in need of additional support to cope with stress.
An annual donation of over £30,000 - even more this year - together with joint risk management initiatives is the PDA’s commitment to raising the profile of Pharmacist Support’s work.
This alone, however, is not enough. If we want to make a difference, we have to tackle the causes of stress and ensure pharmacists can work in an environment that is best for them and their patients.
The PDA’s Safer Pharmacies Charter, launched two years ago, is gathering momentum and we will continue to campaign on the importance of creating the best working environment.
When staffing is reduced and targets are high, there is potential for more stress; 86 per cent of those surveyed by Pharmacist Support said staff shortages are one of the causes of greater stress.
We also know that without adequate rest breaks, mistakes can happen - mistakes that can be life-changing for patients and pharmacists.
We want to ensure pharmacists are not forced to self-check and where they have concerns about the impact of the environment they work in, they feel confident to raise those issues without fear of reprisals.
Tackling the underlying causes of stress in pharmacy cannot be the responsibility of one organisation. It is the role of all representative organisations, employer, employee, to tackle stress by providing greater levels of support.
To adapt the words of one of our politicians, let us be “tough on stress with greater support and tough on the causes of stress.”
Claire Ward is director of public affairs at the Pharmacists' Defence Association.