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Work-Life Balance During the Time of COVID-19

Mar 03, 2022

Regina Schomberg, PharmD, BCPS

IF THERE EVER WAS A TIME that pushed pharmacists to the limit trying to balance work and family, it was the past two years. In honor of national Women’s History Month, ASHP is celebrating women pharmacy leaders who supported their teams, their patients, and their home lives during this once-in-a-century pandemic. In this article, the second of a series of three, three pharmacists share their advice in juggling these often-competing priorities.

Boundaries for Home and Work      

You can have it all, but not all at once, said Regina Schomberg, PharmD, BCPS, director of pharmacy, retail, and specialty pharmacy services at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, N.C. Raising a family while also working to advance a professional career isn’t easy but can be done, she said. At different times, Dr. Schomberg has prepared for Utilization Review Accreditation Commission accreditation in her car while her son took piano lessons, prepared for morning rounds after a 4 a.m. newborn feeding, and taken conference calls while driving to a college counseling meeting. “Creativity is a must when juggling a professional career and a family,” she said.

Find organization skills that work for you to stay on top of everything, Dr. Schomberg advised. Touch electronic or paper communication once, then delete, trash, or respond. Dr. Schomberg uses sticky notes to quickly jot her thoughts and bring them to work or back home at the end of the day. She and her husband review calendars together to coordinate responsibilities. Say yes to new opportunities that arise if you can, and schedule items in your day and week that bring you happiness.

Like many others, Dr. Schomberg learned to reprioritize during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think the pandemic made me realize it’s ok to have a short to-do list, or it’s ok not to check everything off the list,” she said. “As pharmacists, working mothers, women, and leaders, we define success as how much we achieve. The pandemic has taught us that it’s ok not to set our standards so high.”

To stay resilient, Dr. Schomberg said, make sure your work and home boundaries are clear. Honor the end of the workday. Just like you might normally walk out of an office at 5 o’clock, she said, turn off your computer at that time. Always have something to look forward to, even if it’s something small, like buying someone a birthday gift or spending time outside watching the sunset. Take care of your personal needs. And, lean on those closest to you to stay balanced. “We think we can do it all, and sometimes we don’t stop to ask for help,” she said. “COVID-19 has forced us to ask for help from our spouse, children, girlfriends, or other moms.”

Tips for Success     

Beth Phillips, PharmD, FCCP, FASHP, BCPS, BCACP, is the kind of leader who causes people to ask, “How does she do it?” Dr. Phillips, the Rite Aid Professor of clinical and administrative pharmacy at the University of Georgia in Athens, said organization has been key to her success.

“Sometimes I need to arrange my personal life to accommodate work deadlines or arrange my work schedule and deadlines to accommodate my family’s needs,” Dr. Phillips said. “The key to balancing work responsibilities is collaborating with your colleagues to ensure patients’ and learners’ needs are met.”

She also offered these tips:

  • Make everything count. Phillips ensures all of her professional pursuits and opportunities align with her job responsibilities and expectations. She frequently looks to re-tool her work for other purposes, such as using clinical controversies in patient care as topics for research projects or presentations.
  • Pursue passions. Phillips feels deeply committed to residency training, and always says yes to anything residency-related. She directs the residency program at her institution and has served on the ASHP Commission on Credentialing, the body overseeing residency accreditation.
  • Stay organized. Phillips keeps a daily to-do list with emails, meetings and other projects that must completed, and other projects with longer-term deadlines. She keeps her calendar up to date with both work and personal events.

Beth Phillips, PharmD, FCCP, FASHP, BCPS, BCACP

With no travel, school, or social events going on during the pandemic, it became easy for Dr. Phillips to pick up work projects that had been sitting on her to-do list for a while, and to fall into a pattern of working all of the time.

“This mindset and drive to do more worked for me for a while, but the pace got to me as well as the relative lack of human connection (outside my family),” she said. “I realized that I needed to take time for myself, and schedule breaks to maintain my well-being and resilience.” Dr. Phillips also made time to connect with colleagues and friends, which helped her recharge and resume enthusiasm about her work.

Tilt the Scales to Achieve Growth

Jennifer Loucks, PharmD, BCPS, a clinical manager of ambulatory pharmacy services at the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, has a slightly different take on work-life, referring to the term balance as “baloney.”

“When you think about a work-life balance, you’re usually focused on striving for equilibrium between the two,” Dr. Louck said. The statement implies there is a competition between the two for your time, she said, which could result in a continual imbalance, and feelings of failure or guilt.

Instead, Dr. Louck advised, it makes more sense to tilt the scales in one direction or the other as you need to achieve satisfaction and growth. During her two years of pharmacy residency, Dr. Louck devoted much more of her time and energy to work to get all she could out of that training. After she landed a job she enjoyed, she was able to focus more on life outside of work hours, spending time with friends and family, traveling and pursuing other hobbies. Recognize that life will change, she said. When her father passed away suddenly, Dr. Louck took time off to help her mother. Even when she returned to work, she passed on opportunities for extra projects for a time.

Jennifer Loucks, PharmD, BCPS

“Trying to achieve a work-life balance is like expecting to only find a flat road; don’t try to do it,” she said. “Focus on work and life in the amount you need at each point in your life.”

After having a baby, Dr. Louck again reorganized her time. With only so many hours in the day, she echoed Dr. Phillips’ mantra to make every moment count. Initially, she prioritized tasks at work so she could leave in time to spend dedicated time with her daughter before putting her to bed.

Working mothers can find some added time by taking advantage of online shopping or grocery delivery services, using a cleaning service, or avoiding expending energy on trivial issues, said Dr. Louck. Address concerns upfront or let them go, she advised.

Finally, said Dr. Louck, “You can’t force a timeline. We all have an idea in our heads of when things should happen in our lives and professional careers, but this is only a starting point.” If you aren’t where you want to be in either your life or career, you can always work toward a new goal, she added.

Drs. Schomberg, Phillips, and Loucks are among 31 contributors to “Letters from Women in Pharmacy: Stories on Integrating Life and Career” published by ASHP. Designed to support successful professional women through the power of personal stories from those from diverse backgrounds and career paths, the book is available for purchase at ASHP’s store.

 

By Karen Blum

 

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