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3 reasons pharmacists are lonely

There seems no reprieve to the pharmacist’s daily battles, let alone carrying the weight of nurturing a high-volume prescription count, staff that need plenty of attention and keeping an eye on a business that depends on a ton of moving parts.

Are you looking for a tangible solution to battling the loneliness that comes with being at the top?

Cliché but true: It’s lonely at the top.

Raise your hand if you have any of the following problems in your practice: inadequate staffing, delegating technical checking duties, confusion about regulation changes, fully implementing new scope clinical duties, drug back-orders, waiving too much, the odd patient confrontation, repetitive questions that do not require the pharmacist 's attention… I could go on and so could you.

There seems no reprieve to the pharmacist’s daily battles, let alone carrying the weight of nurturing a high-volume prescription count, staff that need plenty of attention and keeping an eye on a business that depends on a ton of moving parts.

Given all these variables, it is reasonable that the pharmacy leader, regardless of being the pharmacy manager or owner, can feel a little lonely. It is a feeling that we are often not aware of or are ashamed of admitting since so many people depend on us. Once we admit to ourselves that our job can be lonely, we start to realize the reasons and can frame ways to fix the problem.

Three reasons pharmacists are lonely

First, pharmacists are unique. Pharmacists are often the only pharmacists on duty. We cannot always relate to the amount of free time or the different income bracket of others on the team. Our interests and lifestyles do not always fit into the conversations others are having around us, and because of differences in responsibility, we have different problems to solve. Unlike others we work alongside, pharmacists cannot leave the building during the work day or take true breaks. We work evenings, weekends, and clock in for marathon stretches of work days wing to a lack of pharmacists available for the abundance of pharmacies. We also face clinical problems alone since our immediate work mates cannot contribute.

All of this is compounded by the main fact that we are busy. With heads down, in the trenches, there is little time to seek deep conversations with other pharmacists or discover outside places to improve upon our problems, such as conferences, continuing education events or study groups. Most pharmacists would say they just do not get to these as often as they would like.

Essentially, we are unique. Pharmacists are their own kind and we lack a band of unity, where we can vent, share ideas and correct each other when going off-path.

The result is a feeling of being somewhat isolated. Since we cannot exactly insert our identities into the groups of people around us, we can feel different from others and often lack a suitable likeminded partner to support us as we navigate and process each day.

A second reason we are lonely is that pharmacy is highly competitive. Often since neighbouring pharmacies are competing for the same patients or pharmacists themselves are competing for internal positions, we are hesitant to share. We often avoid sharing our troubles and are afraid that sharing our solutions will give others an advantage. Until pharmacists have more opportunity to confidentially open up to each other in trust, there will be a limitation to solution sharing.

The third reason for loneliness is the genetic pharmacist personality. Generally, pharmacists are confrontation-avoiders. We often put ourselves out to avoid conflict or liability. We give the staff a schedule they want, we do what our bosses demand without pushing back and give in with patients instead of saying no. We waive co-pays, extend refills that should go to their physicians, stay late, and leave the store alone in the dark, or hand-deliver after hours.

Essentially, pharmacists are lonely because our role is unique among our staff, we are surrounded by competition and we avoid confrontation at all costs. So, what's the answer? Each other.

 

loneliness
Photo by Adam Griffith on Unsplash

In pharmacy school I always joked that I could never marry another pharmacist because all we would talk about would be drugs, interactions and patient stories. Having married one, I realize I could never survive without her. Why? She gets me. When I come home hashing out the day, she knows exactly what I mean on more than a superficial level without me having to explain the background. (Imagine: “So we have this thing called a compliance pack.…)

That feeling that we are not alone is what pharmacists often lack, which provides confidence to move forward, push mental boundaries and create greatness.  

A solution to pharmacist loneliness

When pharmacists get together, the answers are in the room. We are all trying to solve the same problems and understand each other. Since we speak the same language, we can support and challenge each other. We can offer new solutions to each other since others are less emotionally invested. Since togetherness is the key, I would like to offer a mechanism.

Cascade is a pharmacist mastermind, a group of supportive pharmacists who openly share ideas, propose tangible solutions to everyday problems and challenge each other to create new wonders. Explore more here and apply for the next cycle today.

The way forward

Understanding why we might feel lonely provides justification and confidence to solve it. Knowing we are subject to loneliness due to our uniqueness, our local competition and our conflict-averse tendencies offers an obvious answer to find more of each other.

Jason Cascade course
Jason Cascade course

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