Burnout syndrome is not well studied within the pharmacy profession, yet it is likely something many pharmacists have experienced on some level. In this interview two pharmacists who recently published an article on burnout syndrome discuss the topic.
Interview with: Patrick J. Bridgeman, Jr, Pharm.D. & Mary M. Bridgeman, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP
Interview by: Timothy P. Gauthier, Pharm.D., BCPS-AQ ID
[Last updated: 8 February 2018]
For most people working as a pharmacist means a daily routine of managing drugs that can be life prolonging if used correctly or life shortening if used incorrectly. Over time this fundamental role combined with a myriad of other stressors can lead to substantial professional challenges.
As pharmacists discuss coping mechanisms and feeling stressed about work, one topic that can arise is being “burnt out” or what is formally known as burnout syndrome. Burnout syndrome (also referred to as BOS) is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive stress. Burnout is different than depression, because it refers to work-related exhaustion.
In the specialty area of infectious diseases and antimicrobial stewardship pharmacy, burnout is a major issue. It causes people to leave their jobs and can make working in this field a total nightmare. Acknowledging and managing burnout is very important. From speaking to pharmacists in various parts of the country I have come to conclude that this is a topic not segregated to one geographic location and likely not something my pharmacy specialty alone struggles with.
Literature on the topic of burnout syndrome within the pharmacy profession is limited. A quick search in pubmed performed in February of 2018 revealed just 8 hits for “burnout syndrome AND pharmacy.”
Recently three pharmacists took on the task of discussing burnout syndrome among healthcare professionals. They published their work in the February 2018 issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy:
- Bridgeman PJ, Bridgeman MB, Barone J. Burnout syndrome among healthcare professionals. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 2018; 75(4): 147-152.
Given that this is an important topic for the profession of pharmacy today, I reached out to the authors and requested an interview. They were gracious enough to accept the offer and the following was composed. The following provides insights on burnout syndrome amongst pharmacists.
1. What prompted the creation of your recent AJHP commentary about burnout syndrome among healthcare professionals?
Our interest in this topic arose when Patrick was approached by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists to share a clinical pearl session that would be impactful for clinicians.
Rather than focusing on a therapeutic topic, recognizing the work that is being done in medicine and the attention that has been focused on provider mental health, raising this attention among pharmacy professionals only seemed natural and was the impetus for our follow-up review. We felt that there was a need to bring attention to this important topic for a few reasons. The first being the wellness of the individual health care practitioner and second being to help practitioners provide the best possible care to patients, since presence of BOS can affect patient outcomes.
2. What do you feel the most common misconception is when it comes to burnout syndrome among pharmacists?
There are so many misperceptions about BOS. This is particularly true with regard to the overlap of other mental health conditions with burnout syndrome.
In healthcare the stigma of mental health issues may prevent clinicians from seeking the appropriate resources to ensure their own wellness. People should know that burnout is much more than a bad day on the job. It is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and cynicism in practice, plus inefficacy or reduced sense of accomplishment. While burnout symptoms share overlap with depression, there are important distinguishing characteristics that must be recognized.
3. Can pharmacist burnout really have that much of an impact on patient care?
Burnout and provider resilience is garnering much attention across the health professions and organizations representing health professionals, because of the impact it can have on patient safety and care quality.
There is an absolute correlation between poor provider well-being and degree of burnout symptoms with poorer patient outcomes and increased risk of errors in care.
4. Are there certain types of pharmacists who are more likely to experience burnout?
Literature and evidence quantifying the incidence and degree of burnout in pharmacy clinicians based upon practice setting or therapeutic expertise/area are almost non-existent at present.
That being said, we do know that community pharmacists may be likely to experience lower job satisfaction and higher rates of burnout compared with pharmacists practicing in other environments.
5. What can pharmacists do to avoid burnout syndrome?
Recognizing causes and contributing factors is critical for identifying strategies to alleviate burnout risk.
Risk factors that contribute to the development of BOS include high workload, lack of control, inadequate reward for work, lack of community in the workplace, and perceptions of fairness or job-person incongruity.
For example, if lack of control is identified as a contributing factor some strategies include evaluating expectations for advancement (e.g., a clinical ladder). Another strategy to help improve a feeling of community would be participation in professional organizations.
Most importantly the individual needs to prioritize their own health and well-being.
6. Do you have a few pieces of advice for pharmacists who feel they may already be experiencing burnout syndrome?
There are many resources for pharmacists experiencing burnout, but access may depend on the environment they work in or the employer they work for. Many workplaces have employee wellness programs that offer support for personnel on the job and for mitigating burnout risk.
Gaining a better understanding of what BOS is and identifying the resources available to you is a good first step towards addressing existing issues.
7. What resources do you recommend for learning more about burnout syndrome?
There are many resources which pharmacists may find valuable, but two of the best are:
- Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience
- American Medical Association’s Steps Forward Program
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. PJ Bridgeman and Dr. MM Bridgeman for taking the time to participate in this interview and discuss a topic which will continue to be relevant to the profession of pharmacy for many years to come.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEES
Patrick J. Bridgeman, Jr., Pharm.D.
Dr. Bridgeman received his Pharm.D. from the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University in 2006. He completed a post-graduate residency in Emergency Medicine at Rutgers University and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He spent ten years as a Clinical Specialist in the Emergency Department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and presently is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Dr. Bridgman maintains a clinical practice in Emergency Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He has spoken nationally on topics such as post cardiac arrest therapeutic hypothermia, stroke, and rapid sequence intubation pharmacology. His current research interests include pharmacologic management of stroke, thrombolytic use in resuscitation, and strategies for optimizing professional resilience in the workplace.
Mary M. Bridgeman, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP
Mary Bridgeman received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. After graduation, she completed a specialized pharmacy residency in Nephrology and Hypertension at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Mary has been at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University since 2007 and is currently a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administration. She maintains a practice site in Internal Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Mary is recognized as a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist, Board Certified Geriatric Pharmacist, and Fellow of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists.
Mary is actively involved in state, regional and national societies that serve the pharmacy profession, including the New Jersey Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists, the New Jersey Pharmacists Association, the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists, and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, to name a few. At both the university and hospital organizational levels, she is involved in committees charged with governing student development and patient care, respectively. At the state level, she is a member and co-chairwoman of the New Jersey Interagency Council on Osteoporosis and member of the New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel. She is a peer-reviewer for several journals and has served as an item writer for the American College of Clinical Pharmacy’s mock board certification exam and reviewer for the organization’s annual Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist review course. She is a monthly contributor to a column on over-the-counter medication use that appears in the journal, Pharmacy Times.
RECOMMENDED TO YOU