Address the Causes of Pharm Tech Burnout to Help Improve Employee Retention
Pharmacy technicians are experiencing burnout at somewhat alarming rates, resulting in significant increases in attrition. What’s behind pharm burnout and, perhaps more importantly, how do you deal with these factors to help improve retention? We intend to answer both of these questions. But first, it helps to know how much of an issue pharmacy tech burnout really is.
Pharm Tech Burnout “Hits Breaking Point”
On December 17, 2021, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) published a press release indicating that many pharmacists and their teams – which would include pharmacy techs – have been pushed to their limits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing these healthcare professionals to hit their “breaking point.”1 This release goes on to explain that this high level of burnout is a patient safety concern due to prescription medications not being filled on time, a greater potential for errors, and more.
While the pandemic may have pushed pharmacy professionals to the point of being burnt out, prior reports suggest that this issue was a concern long before the coronavirus. For example, in 2019, the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy reported that increasing pressures and healthcare complexity contributed to burnout in pharmacy departments, also forecasting that this burnout was likely to raise job turnover rates by 15% or more.2
What Causes Pharmacy Tech Burnout?
Several factors can contribute to an increased burnout risk among pharmacy technicians. They include:
- Heavy workload
- Reduced qualifications and certifications
- Low levels of resilience
- Poor social structures
A previous study provides a bit of insight on the subject, suggesting that other causes might also be at play. This study was published in 2017 and noted that some of the factors that predicted burnout within the pharmacy setting were “difficult pharmacist colleagues” and feeling underappreciated.3
Ways to Address (Reduce) Pharmacy Technician Burnout
The first step to reducing pharmacy tech burnout is to address its root causes. Here are a few strategies that can help.
Reduce the Workload
The APhA cites workload as a contributor to burnout among pharmacy professionals, adding that they often face “unrealistic productivity requirements.”4 This suggests that finding a way to reduce or eliminate the workload of pharmacy techs may help reduce the risk of burnout. Finding ways to shorten the workday might help as well.
Hiring more staff may be a workable solution. If your personnel budget prevents bringing on more pharmacy technicians, stay aware of how much work you’re placing on these healthcare professionals. Keep the lines of communication open and check with them often to make sure their workload feels manageable. If it doesn’t, work together to find ways to rectify the situation.
Encourage Certification and Training
Making on-the-job mistakes can reduce a pharmacy technician’s self-esteem and confidence, potentially leading to burnout.5 So, encouraging non-certified pharm techs to pursue training and certification may help reduce this burnout risk.
UMA offers this ability via our Health Sciences – Pharmacy Technician program. This educational program teaches students about pharm tech fundamentals, pharmacology, pathophysiology, pharmaceutical calculations, drug/dosage interactions, and more. It also prepares students to sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (PTCE) offered through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) offered through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). UMA pharmacy technician students take part in a 180-hour pharmacy technician on-site externship. This provides practical experience in a real-world setting and enables them to build upon their skills in this important role.
Research suggests that low levels of resilience in healthcare workers are associated with an increased risk of burnout.6 Building resilience in your pharmacy techs, then, may help reduce these risks.
The Society for Human Resource Management suggests that employers can help their staff build resilience by:7
- Not “catastrophizing” negative work situations, instead, approaching workplace issues with more of an investigative stance (asking questions about what occurred, then finding a workable solution)
- Strengthening workplace connections, such as by celebrating team and individual wins and showing interest in who the employee is and not just the tasks they perform
- Promoting self-care, encouraging pharmacy techs to take advantage of company wellness programs and/or look after their mental health
- Practicing mindfulness, keeping staff in the present to help reduce stress about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow
- Focusing on employee strengths, reinforcing the value that the pharm tech brings to the workplace, and recognizing their accomplishments
Increasing Social Support
Adequate levels of social support can help healthcare workers reduce their stress levels, lowering their risk of burnout.8 While you can’t necessarily change the relationships that your staff has with family and friends, there are a few things you may be able to do to increase their level of social support in the workplace. One option is to establish or strengthen an inter-office network.
For instance, you might set aside time at meetings to discuss how everyone is feeling and find ways to improve job satisfaction. Talk about the issues that are contributing to stress or burnout and work together to resolve them.
Another option is to assign new hires a mentor, giving them someone they can go to with questions and for support. This can help new pharm techs feel not so alone while also giving them someone that is a source of information and encouragement in the workplace.
Improving Workplace Relations
If you were to ask your pharmacy technicians about their co-workers, would they say that these colleagues are supportive and helpful or difficult and hard to get along with? The 2017 study suggests that if they answer the latter, it could be contributing to their feelings of burnout.2
Improving workplace relationships might involve creating more of a team environment in which every member is valued and appreciated. Enable staff to give others recognition in the employee newsletter when they do something notable or go above and beyond. Help them learn to recognize and foster team members’ strengths, thereby improving interpersonal relations.
Reduce Burnout, Improve Retention
By taking actions to reduce pharmacy tech burnout, it can help improve retention. Instead of your staff looking for a way out, they can feel satisfied in their role and look forward to a long career with your healthcare organization.
1 American Pharmacists Association. APhA: Pharmacist Burnout Hits Breaking Point, Impacting Patient Safety. https://pharmacist.com/APhA-Press-Releases/apha-pharmacist-burnout-hits-breaking-point-impacting-patient-safety
2 Vermeulen L, et al. ASHP Foundation Pharmacy Forecast 2019: Strategic Planning Advice for Pharmacy Departments in Hospitals and Health Systems. https://academic.oup.com/ajhp/article/76/2/71/5289845
3 Jones GM, et al. Factors Associated with Burnout Among US Hospital Clinical Pharmacy Practitioners: Results of a Nationwide Pilot Survey. Hospital Pharmacy. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29276254/
4 American Pharmacists Association. The Pharmacist’s Guide to Recognizing and Preventing Burnout. https://www.pharmacist.com/Publications/Transitions/the-pharmacists-guide-to-recognizing-and-preventing-burnout
5 Indeed. What To Do When You Are Feeling Incompetent at Work. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/feeling-incompetent-at-work
6 Abram M, Jacobowitz W. Resilience and Burnout in Healthcare Students and Inpatient Psychiatric Nurses: A Between-Groups Study of Two Populations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7577217/
7 Doheny K. Building Resilience: Helping Workers Handle Stress for the Long Haul. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/building-resilient-workers-.aspx
8 Wolff M. The Influence of Social Support and Physical Activity on Employee Job Stress, Burnout and Well-Being in the Healthcare Industry. https://esploro.libs.uga.edu/esploro/outputs/doctoral/The-influence-of-social-support-and-physical-activity-on-employee-job-stress-burnout-and-well-being-in-the-healthcare-industry/9949334811902959