Posted on Friday February 2 2018 by Ellie Anderton
Being a pharmacist is an extremely rewarding and fulfilling job. Like many other healthcare professions, however, it is also extremely stressful. I do long hours (usually a 9-12 hour shift), have to deal with patients who have very complex conditions, parents worried about their children’s ailments, prescriptions that have not been issued or completed, complaints from customers when their prescriptions are not ready, pressure to complete a day’s work and meet the needs and expectations of the NHS and my bosses. Very often I’m the only pharmacist in my store, with nobody else to refer to when I have a decision to make.
Some would say I’m lucky. I don’t have to deal with the night shifts that nurses do. I don’t have a time limit of approximately 10 minutes to diagnose and advise treatment to a patient. Furthermore, my employer has a professional support helpline if I feel I need advice. I know, though, that this is not a luxury every pharmacist enjoys.
However, with the increasing strain on the NHS, patients with long term or serious short term ailments are unable to see their GP. So, they come to the chemist, where no appointment is required. Therefore, pharmacists are seeing more complex conditions present in their workplace. I once referred a man with a severe wound to his GP and he laughed at me, saying he simply could not get an appointment. Also, more conditions mean more prescriptions, ergo a bigger workload. Once the cuts to community pharmacy funding are added, the pressure is full on.
Mental health has been neglected for far too long and it is finally coming to the fore. But who cares about the caregivers in the community?
Mental health in the workplace is a known concern and whilst the workplace may not cause a person to have poor mental health and wellbeing, having to work under high levels of pressure can exacerbate and worsen it. Unfortunately, I do not believe society puts mental health on a similar par with physical health. For example, if as a pharmacist I were to seriously injure myself, I would be granted time off work to recover. However, if I felt my mental health and wellbeing was suffering, can I say with confidence that I would be given the same treatment? Furthermore, are we training our managers and seniors to be able to support pharmacists who feel they need help?
In terms of seeking medical help, NHS England have set a waiting time target for people who require mental health services of 18 weeks. That’s approximately 4.5 to 5 months that someone may have to wait to get help. If those who are supposed to treat the population are unwell and struggling to cope themselves, how can they be expected to practice at their best standards? What are employers doing to ensure pharmacists are mentally well enough to work? Do pharmacists feel comfortable coming forward with the work pressures, or do they fear this will compromise their job security? After all, we have bills to pay as well.
Boots the Chemist are increasing their efforts to tackle mental health issues with pharmacists, in the wake of the suicide of a pharmacist who worked for Boots. Furthermore, Pharmacist Support are a charity who offer amazing support to pharmacists struggling with, amongst other issues, their mental health. The PDA are doing more to encourage pharmacists who need support with their mental health to seek help.
Pharmacists are the experts of medicines and some of the most trusted and easily accessible healthcare professionals available. But we are as human as the people we treat and just as susceptible to illnesses including mental health conditions. Our own healthcare must be protected as we address the health of the nation.
Anyone who feels they need support with their mental health can contact Pharmacist Support on -
Freephone 0808 168 2233
Or go online at https://pharmacistsupport.org