Ohio State students discover ways to beat burnout and improve resiliency in the pharmacy profession


May 8, 2019

pharmacist burnout
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According to the Mayo Clinic, physician burnout is one of the earliest indictors of health-system dysfunction. One-third to one-half of physicians meet burnout criteria, leading to suffering among physicians and their families. As the topic of burnout in healthcare continues to gain momentum and professionals look into strategies to improve resiliency, pharmacy professionals are examining how they can beat burnout and build resiliency in their field.

Kristine Mason Headshot
Kristine Mason

Kristine Mason and Shannon Kraus, recent alumnae of The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a specialization in Health-System Pharmacy Administration (MS/HSPA) program, completed research projects focused on assessing burnout and resiliency in the pharmacy profession. Mason and Kraus are some of the first in the profession to look at resiliency and burnout through a pharmacy lens. Mason examined community-based settings, while Kraus evaluated health-system settings.

“Wellness has always been a priority for me. It’s more than just physical fitness though, it’s emotional wellness too,” Kraus said. “As I heard more about these ideas of burnout and resiliency, I started thinking about workplace culture and what I could do as a leader to promote new ideas.”

To begin their research, Mason and Kraus looked at the information that was available from the pioneers of this topic, including Stanford, Duke and Mayo Clinic. While these institutions look specifically at physician burnout, the National Academy of Medicine led the way for a holistic approach.

“We’ve seen that there isn’t a one-size fits all solution to this issue. Every profession and person needs a solution that fits their needs. One area of opportunity is community pharmacist and technician engagement and retention,” Mason said.

Shannon Kraus Headshot
Shannon Kraus

According to the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, pharmacist job turnover is fairly steady, averaging 11% annually. The average median tenure of pharmacists who left jobs was 32 months. The percentage of pharmacists leaving jobs and ranking stress as the reason for leaving increased, while the percentage of leavers ranking salary as the reason decreased.

In this area, Kraus looked at her teams within OhioHealth and worked one-on-one with her technicians. After performing a Love Languages evaluation, she discovered they could improve the way they celebrate and recognize individual accomplishments, utilizing words of affirmation.

Within the community setting, Mason discovered there was a high amount of emotional exhaustion, which can lead to high-risk situations with patient malpractice. She looked further into what could be done to refuel pharmacists after interactions with patients to ensure they are practicing at the top of their license.

“We’ve seen that creating a culture of positivity and team building can help positively impact pharmacists’ ability to enjoy their job and do it well,” Mason said.

While this topic continues to gain popularity, Mason and Kraus look forward to sharing their findings broadly, making this information easily accessible for all. With help from Tim Ulbrich, PharmD, MS/HSPA program director and professor of clinical pharmacy, they have been featured on several profession podcasts and blogs, including the Pharmacy Leaders Podcast, Talk to Your Pharmacists, Rx Buzz, The Fit Pharmacist and tl;dr pharmacy.