With pharmacists and pharmacy teams managing increasing workloads and under ever-growing pressure, the profession’s independent charity Pharmacist Support is seeing greater demand for its services. Last year the service launched three wellbeing workshops, focusing on assertiveness, building resilience and time management, and P3 was given a taster of what’s involved.
Alongside talking to your employer about workload issues, what can you do to respond to a situation in a way that helps you to regain control? Manage your time assertively and improve your personal resilience, pharmacists are advised. “Learn to say no if you do not have time, and explain why clearly. Plan ahead and ask for help before it’s a problem.”
Time management is about using your day effectively so that the right time is allocated to the right activity. Write down how you spend the 168 hours in a typical week, including your well-earned rest. Is there anything you could do differently?
Being as organised as possible is a good start. “Saving just one hour a week could make all the difference,” says Pharmacist Support.
The charity suggests reviewing work priorities using the ‘must, should, could’ approach to managing a list of tasks. “Write down a list of at least 10 things you have to do tomorrow, or this week. Next to them write A (must), B (should) or C (could) based on their importance and urgency. Now number each task in order of priority, and you have tomorrow’s to-do list.”
We can’t “do it all”, we are reminded. “Ask for help when necessary and take a break to be refreshed,” the workshops advise. Although it can be difficult to find the time to do it and tempting to work on through, this is important to help you to achieve more, improve performance, make fewer mistakes, and reduce stress, says Pharmacist Support.
Make sure everyone in the team has breaks, and use the phrase “the pharmacist is taking a statutory break” to explain the absence of a pharmacist to patients if necessary.
Resilience includes the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, as well as developing ‘toughness’. Accepting what we can and cannot change, learning to make the most of the good things in our lives and deciding where to put our energy to create a sense of balance can all help to build resilience.
Consider your thought processes. Do you believe you are in control of your life, value your achievements, have a network of support and learn from difficult experiences?
See if you can change negative thoughts into positive affirmations, suggests Pharmacist Support. For example, ‘I can’t do that’ to ‘I have a choice’ or ‘I never get anywhere’ to ‘I win some; I lose some’.
If you are worrying, try to restrict this to a ‘worry period’ that you schedule during the day rather than thinking about your problems all the time, suggests Pharmacist Support.
A busy day is likely to include several situations where you may feel conflict or challenge. Are you dealing with difficult situations assertively?
Learn to say no, and when to say yes, and learn the art of the ‘guilt-free no’. When you need to ask things from others: “Be polite but firm, don’t apologise for what you are asking, and be clear on what it is that you are asking.”
Accepting the status quo when something needs to be changed may be acting passively. Recognise your values and challenge situations where your values may be compromised, for example ‘I do not accept being shouted at’.
For managers, building an effective team will do much to help everyone to feel less stressed. Acknowledge that you can’t do everything and work with others where you can, through delegation or collaboration. From a personal perspective, ensure that you eat well, sleep well, exercise, use a diary and create an action plan.
Pharmacist Support promotes five ways to support wellbeing, based on research from the New Economics Foundation:
Give – “Do something nice for a friend, or stranger. Thank someone. Smile.”
Connect – “Social relationships are key to promoting good wellbeing.”
Be active – “Exercising makes you feel good”
Take notice – “Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling”
Keep learning – “Try something new.”
The Wardley Wellbeing Service, set up from a donation to the charity, includes workshops, a stress helpline and online resources. To find out more, call 0800 168 2233, or visit pharmacistsupport.org.