Tips on How to Avoid Interruptions and Distractions in the Pharmacy
by Robin Luke, CPhT
Pharmacy technicians have come such a long way with the added responsibilities' shifting roles. There are so many more services offered today by pharmacies than ever before and not just vaccines.
No matter the reason, it seems like no pharmacy is so well staffed that they can honestly say interruptions and distractions are not an issue.
Pharmacy technicians are multitaskers. But when did multitasking become “more on my plate that I am concerned about completing without interruptions and distractions”?
While processing prescriptions, pharmacy technicians freely express exhaustion and frustration with the number of interruptions that cloud their days. According to a study conducted by Matthew Grissinger in NCBI, medication error risks increase by 12.7% with every single interruption.
Being interrupted to the point where you are shifting your focus could cause you to have some difficulty remembering what you were doing, what step you were at, where you need to return to continue the task, and possibly risk outright forgetfulness leading to some serious issues depending on the circumstances.
It is even more dangerous in an environment where things are rushed, like in many pharmacies. When someone is running around performing multiple tasks that require some concentration, steps could be omitted, or their memory experiences a longer recall when taken away from one task only to return later.
As pharmacy technicians, we must be in a state of constant triaging what we have at any given moment, only to have that change in a few minutes. Meanwhile, something is being sacrificed, leading to more frustrating situations such as angry patients who feel they wait too long, unfilled prescriptions that were received before other completed prescriptions, etc.
Some people choose to leave and work elsewhere, while others stay and access company-sponsored resources such as resilience, mindfulness, and employee health counseling services. There is no one size fits all, and we knew from day one that safety is crucial no matter what. Patients' lives, for one, are in our hands. Outside of the typical “turn on the out of office on your email” type advice, some tips that could help you rearrange what you experience at work with multitasking could be:
Turn off anything that isn't required to be on
Cell phones, for example. Personal texts are most likely not emergencies yet grab your attention when we see the notification or feel the vibration.
Try to plan for the day after evaluating the workload ahead
Give some pre-thought on some common interruptions you experience and try to plan them into your day ahead.
Communicate with your coworkers what you see for the day ahead and how you are going to try to attack the day
Others could then be aware of why you might be doing some tasks ahead of others or understand that you will do other tasks they are concerned about later because you have shared your plan.
Perhaps you could mention as early in the workday as possible that you would like or need some assistance with a particular task and cite a timeframe. Explain why you need the help and how it would benefit the most with what needs to be done.
Share with coworkers a cue you have that lets them know you are overwhelmed
This is just a small gesture, perhaps a hand signal, until you can get to a point where you can safely recall what you are currently doing and where you left off before shifting your attention.
If you have a process improvement team at work, share your ideas. If not, make suggestions to someone in charge or your coworkers. Maybe it will be adopted, or others may think the same thing and are willing to try them out.
Carry a notepad, and write often
For some people, memory may not be that strong, or the more they are interrupted, the more chance they begin to forget some details. Carry a notepad and jot down something to help you remember where you were when you return to it or write down the new task.
Rate what tasks you have in order of importance. Jot down some important factors you need to assess the task and rate it. Consider deadlines vs. on-demand.
Do not beat yourself up
Self-care is important. Besides suggestions like meditation, proper rest, and the like, allowing yourself to become so frustrated can truly affect your mindset and performance. Be aware of how you feel and find ways to remain calm and control yourself.