MPA | Pharmacy News

Residency and Resiliency

Posted on September 13, 2019 in: Member News

By Iva L. Keene, Pharm.D., PGY-1 pharmacy resident, Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center, Saginaw
Brian J. Seigfried, Pharm.D. PGY-1 pharmacy resident, Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center, Saginaw  

A survey of 329 health system pharmacists by Durham et al. showed that over 53 percent of pharmacists stated they were at a high degree of burnout.1 Burnout is a major problem and needs to be addressed. Organizations like the National Academy of Medicine acknowledge work life integration as a factor impacting the well-being of healthcare workers.2 Residency cannot be excluded, especially when residents have family at home. This scenario brings a different perspective into the burnout potential of a pharmacy resident. As new practitioners, failing to take the necessary steps to counter burnout may negatively impact self-confidence, ability to learn and communicate with others. This has the potential to not only impact one personally, but it may also impact the effectiveness as a member of the healthcare team. As new residents, the authors seek to identify and share their personal challenges and tips to combat burnout. 

Iva: Being a new mom, wife and resident brings some challenges, such as, juggling doctor appointments, residency assignments, family time, and sleep. Yet, as a new resident, the challenges become easier when I do the following: 

  • Make time for yourself – Schedule 30 minutes per day to read, a biweekly massage or anything that you might do for you. 
  • Be intentional with your family and set weekly family time, whatever it may include.
  • Make sure you eat (more than the occasional granola bar); it is too easy to get lost in the work. Keep a shared calendar of everyone’s (partner/children) appointments and tasks (residency/work/fun). 
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help, whether it be for someone watching your child, so you can finish a project or asking your preceptors for more guidance.  
  • Sustain your motivation by asking yourself why you are doing what you are doing. 
  • Be flexible to change, shortcomings and things not going your way. 

Brian: I have the habit of looking ahead to the next task on my to-do list before I finish the task at hand, frequently failing to recognize what I just accomplished. Being a husband and father of three under the age of five, it can be easy to lose focus and become overwhelmed. When peers ask how I managed, I share the following: 

  • Find and engage in a hobby, whether it be artistic, exercise, sports or medieval role-playing – having a way to decompress with something you enjoy has helped me stay grounded and not feel like I have to give up who I am in order to succeed. 
  • Make and keep a routine or schedule – It may seem impossible at first, but once you get into a rhythm, you can be amazed at what you can fit into one day. 
  • Hydration – Who forgets to drink water? I know I do. I like to add flavor pack to mine to encourage me to drink it. 
  • Remember your motivation – Mine from the beginning was my family. 
  • Exercise – Let’s try to live the way we educate our patients to live. Even if it is just a walk around the block to clear your mind. 
  • Have the courage and humility to ask for help. 

Do not just take our word for it. This is topic that is being discussed by state and national organizations in webinars, journals and conventions3. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) has provided a variety of resources to help develop resilience and well-being, with a particular focus on residents and those in healthcare systems. Some of ASHP's recommendations include3: 

  • Monitoring stress level 
  • Finding a mentor 
  • Developing meaningful social connections
  • Embracing change 
  • Starting a daily gratitude practice (gratitude journal)

Overall, burnout is real and it happens often. As residents, we tend to have tunnel vision about what we have to do next and forget about ourselves. It is important to prioritize yourself and keep the balance between residency, life and family because if you do not, burnout will occur and the career you once wanted will no longer be your desire.  

1. Durham ME, Bush PW, Ball AM. 2018. Evidence of burnout in health-system pharmacists. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 75(23):s93-s100. 
2.National Academy of Medicine. Factors affecting clinician well-being and resilience. (Accessed 2019 Jul 18) 
3. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Wellbeing and You. (Accessed 2019 Jul 18) 

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