COVID-19 burnout is real

Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska via Pexels Karlee Johnston, COVID19, pharmacist, burnout, pharmacists, pharmacy

The pandemic has changed the way we work and live and has led to a shift in how organisations operate. Worldwide, on average, people were working 30 minutes more per day when working from home compared to time spent at the office, prior the pandemic.

Not surprisingly, longer hours can lead to burnout.

However, those working from home aren’t the only ones effected by greater workloads and longer hours.

A new study led by PhD candidate Ms Karlee Johnston and colleagues at The Australian National University (ANU) Medical School has found that Australian pharmacists have also felt the full effects of the pandemic on their lives.

“Burnout can present is many ways and can sometimes be difficult to identify,” says Ms Johnston. “Generally it will result in a lack of engagement in work, reduced care factor and greater chance for errors.”

The number one issue that has caused stress to pharmacists during the pandemic has been the supply of medicine with the inability to help their patients being a major burden for pharmacists.

“The supply chain has been effected due to international boarder closures. This has caused issues for pharmacists, not only because they can’t provide for their patients, but also because the patients are taking out their frustrations on these frontline workers,” explains Ms Johnston, who is a pharmacist.

The study also found that although only a small percentage of pharmacists (17%) were dealing with COVID19 positive patients, the majority of pharmacists (52%) were working overtime as a result of COVID19. This demonstrates that even without COVID19 patients the pandemic put new pressures upon the role of the pharmacist.

“Pharmacists working in a hospital setting are expected to support disaster planning and advise on best practice during rapid change.”

“Although many healthcare professionals moved to online services during the pandemic, many community pharmacists maintained a face-to-face service model. In these instances, the pharmacist often became a counsellor to their patients.”

“These are only a couple of the activities that led to longer work hours. Longer hours led to isolation from family and friends and ultimately burnout,” explained Ms Johnston.

“There’s a lot that can be done to future proof pharmacists from burnout should another crisis occur. This should include pandemic planning that takes into account the need for an increased workforce, more training on best practice for advice giving and managing during a disaster.”

“There’s also a number of interventions that could be implemented to recognise the signs of burnout and promoting self-care and psychological wellbeing within the profession.”

To learn more about the recommendations, read the paper.