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Overcoming Burnout: Advice from Your Pharmacy Peers

Apr 22, 2019

MORE THAN 50 PERCENT OF PHARMACISTS WHO PRACTICE IN ACUTE AND AMBULATORY CARE SETTINGS EXPERIENCE BURNOUT, which is characterized by exhaustion, cynicism, and/or a low sense of personal accomplishment. While burnout is devastating on a personal level, the syndrome can also affect a pharmacist’s ability to fulfill their duties, which can negatively impact patient care.

 

Often when we have a problem, we turn to our peers for support and guidance. ASHP InterSections asked a student pharmacist, a new practitioner, and a pharmacy leader to share their thoughts on resilience and burnout. Here’s their advice.

 

ASHP InterSections: What have you found most challenging about thriving at work or school?

 

Sydney Stiener

Sydney Stiener

ASHP member since 2015

Student Pharmacist and Pharm.D. Candidate (May 2019)

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy

“The biggest challenge for me has been finding the right balance between meeting school-related priorities and dedicating myself to hobbies that help me recharge and be efficient and successful. As a pharmacy student pursuing a residency and facing a competitive job market, there is a constant expectation to do more. On top of rigorous course work and other demands of pharmacy school, students spend many hours a week involved in student organizations, taking on leadership positions, participating in research — and the list goes on and on. Beyond these extracurricular activities, it’s a challenge to find time to care for ourselves by doing things that make us happy outside of school. Without these things, it’s easy to lose perspective and forget the reasons you wanted to become a pharmacist in the first place.”

 

Shannon Kraus, Pharm.D., BCPS

Shannon Kraus, Pharm.D., BCPS

ASHP member since 2015

PGY1/PGY2 MS/Pharmacy Administration Resident

Riverside Methodist Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

“It’s been challenging to me as a new practitioner to balance providing quality care with the realities of needing to do so in a cost-effective way, both across the organization and within the pharmacy service line. For example, while I try to provide optimal patient care and work toward outcomes like decreased readmissions through pharmacist-led counseling at discharge, having limited resources has certainly tested my resilience.”

 

Paul Bush, Pharm.D., M.B.A., BCPS, FASHP

ASHP member since 1975

Chief Pharmacy Officer and HSPA/MS Residency Program Director

Duke University Hospital, Durham, N.C.

“I currently lead a large pharmacy program that includes 428 staff and complex pharmacy operations, so there are many moving parts that I need to be thinking about. It can be challenging to manage the many details and the demands of my job.”

 

ASHP InterSections: How do you ensure your well-being and resilience?

 

Stiener: “I can’t always control the challenges that can lead to symptoms of burnout but I can control my attitude toward those challenges. A philosophy that’s helped me bounce back from a bad exam grade, get through long hours of studying, learn from mistakes, and ultimately excel in my program is Hal Elrod’s 5-Minute Rule, which says it’s OK to be upset, angry, frustrated, or negative when something unfavorable happens to you, but you get only five minutes to feel that way. So, I allow myself five minutes to feel those emotions, but then I force myself to put it behind me, learn from it, and move on with my day with a positive attitude and a smile on my face.

 

“I also prioritize activities that make me happy and recharge my overall well-being, like running outside in the fresh air and spending time with friends and family.”

 

Dr. Kraus: “Every morning at 4 a.m., I fill up my resilience bucket by first reflecting on what I am grateful for from the previous day. After that, I go to my local fitness studio. Exercising strengthens me both physically and mentally.

 

“Throughout the day I try to spread my positive energy with my residency family. I’ve even developed Wellness Wednesday, where I send an email focused on physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or financial health with the hope of providing others with an uplifting moment and helping them build resilience.”

 

Paul Bush, Pharm.D., M.B.A., BCPS, FASHP

Dr. Bush:I think the key to stepping up and leading in challenging situations is simply to stay focused. A book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey — and specifically the idea of putting first things first — has helped me get through the week and stay focused.

 

“I go full speed for five days a week, 10 hours a day, so recharging over the weekend with family is very important to maintaining well-being. During the week, I get on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes a day, which is both physically helpful and a good diversion. I also eat a healthy diet and try to sleep for seven hours a night. And I watch my favorite TV series and sports.”

 

ASHP InterSections: What advice would you give others in your position to help them thrive and rebound from burnout?

 

Stiener: “Surround yourself with positive and supportive friends, classmates, mentors, family members, and others who can see you through stressful times and help you maintain perspective. Also, make time for your own hobbies outside of school. It’s amazing how much easier it is to focus and stay engaged when you invest a little time in yourself.”

 

Dr. Kraus: “The triggers of burnout are often our own self-limiting beliefs. However, we can also choose to cultivate joy in our everyday life and remember that, as E.E. Cummings said, ‘The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.’”

 

Dr. Bush: “Give yourself time to recover from stressful events and reduce your workload when these things happen. Maintain a sense of hope, optimism, and self-efficacy and focus on feeling joy at work. Joyful activities such as ensuring patients have positive experiences and improving patient outcomes are healing, create connections, and add meaning and purpose. Make sure you have strategies for self-care and draw on your social safety nets and support from your organization and your peers.”

 

By David Wild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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