The Importance of Stress Management in the Pharmacy
by Bryan Wilson, CPhT
When thinking about stress and the importance of managing it in a pharmacy setting, let’s dissect the words and define stress management. According to the Cambridge dictionary, stress management is a method of limiting stress and its effects by learning ways of behaving and thinking that reduce it.1
Sounds doable, right? Well, maybe not in a pharmacy atmosphere. In general pharmacy practice, we are hit with stress that we cannot control. So how can we limit something “out of our hands?” I find that you must understand that everyone is different. Not everyone will appreciate your answer, nor will they see your logic of understanding as right all the time.
I will give two examples from my 17 years as a pharmacy technician. The first one was when I was an intern at a retail pharmacy. I respect all pharmacy technicians and their professions, but retail can be stressful. After day one, I realized that each customer had their own story. This means if I hear the same story from several customers, it is the first time for that customer. I had to attempt to see their situation from their eyes. Easier said than done, but you control the atmosphere, don’t let the atmosphere control you.
In example two, my first job was in a pediatric hospital inpatient pharmacy. Not the job I wanted, but the job offered due to staff shortages. I dealt with nurses and other pharmacies responsible for delivering medications in this pharmacy. When a nurse would call looking for a medication, it was imperative that I knew what was delivered and where I put it. This can become doable when you are fully staffed, but in this pharmacy, when a technician calls out, you take on the duties of their work and yours. This happened on my first day as a technician, and very early, I realized that you must prioritize the workload.
In step 1, the method of limiting stress and its effects, we can use a few takeaway pointers:
- Knowing the first warning signs of being stressed. It’s okay to admit that you are stressed. Once you understand that, you can now find solutions to help you decrease your stress.
- Take time for yourself. There are days you may have to work through lunch or work while at lunch. Each day it’s imperative to take some time for self-care. This could be working out, listening to a podcast, or just doing nothing after your shift.2 Healthcare is a team effort. We all have different job descriptions, but the unit can work collaboratively with proper communication and willingness to help each other.
Lou Holtz once said, “It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” The keywords in the second part of the definition are learning ways of behaving and thinking that reduce it. Before I started to write this post, I asked a couple of technicians, who I respected, to put in their input about how they manage stress, but they declined to participate. This shocked me because these technicians worked partly from home and were their team (they didn’t have coworkers.) That leads me to say the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, just different. This is where learning and thinking come into play. Family stress is different from job stress (relatively speaking).
Once you are hired as a technician, that doesn’t mean you are a great technician. It would help if you learned how to become a great technician. You must think and research how to do your job efficiently and correctly. Are you observing coworkers or other technicians in your department? Are you looking at how they handle stress? What would you do better, or how would you take it? In my current position, I love to watch the tech coordinator and the manager handle situations. We are often hit with drug shortages and forced to change our production. After the tasks are put out, I like to ask the coordinator why you think this way is best, or if we did it this way, what would be the consequences? The same goes for stress. On my first day as a technician, when a technician called out, and the lady training me had to work the pediatric floor by herself and train me, she showed me how to handle the stress of working alone.
In step 2, by learning ways of behaving and thinking that reduce it, here are a few takeaways:
- Read or listen. As Certified Pharmacy Technicians, we must do 20 hours of C.E. every two years. Find C.E. that explains or talks about handling and reducing stress in your workplace.
- “As a person thinks, so are they.” Not many people around proclaim that they are stress-free, but once you get your mindset to think on ways to reduce/handle stress, you will be able to manage it better, even if new stressors arrive.
- “It’s not stress that kills us, and it’s our reaction to it,Hans Selye.”3 A technique should not be to bottle it up or suppress it; eventually, you will explode or shut down.
There is no set playbook on how to manage stress as a technician or anyone else in pharmacy. Take these points and add to them. This is to give you options and get the brain to think about managing stress your way. The more tools you have, the better equipped you can be when problems arise.
- STRESS MANAGEMENT | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary
- How to Cope with Stress as a Pharmacy Technician | Ultimate Medical Academy
- 20 Quotes on Stress Management (habitsforwellbeing.com)