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One in four pharmacists warn they are likely to leave profession, new survey finds

Posted on 8 months ago by Laurentina Kennedy

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One in four pharmacists warn they are likely to leave profession, new survey finds​

One in four pharmacists have warned they are likely to leave the profession Photo: Julien Behal/PA
One in four pharmacists have warned they are likely to leave the profession Photo: Julien Behal/PA

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One in four pharmacists warn that they are likely to leave the profession due to to burnout, stress and other grievances, according a new survey.​

In the wake of dealing with the pressures of Covid most community and hospital pharmacists say they are stressed.

Problems include concerns about making mistakes, working in isolation and not being able to leave the pharmacy during the day, according to the new workforce intelligence report from the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI).

Among community pharmacists, working in isolation, a fear of complaints and not being able to leave the premises during the working day were cited as sources of stress.

Confined work spaces and worries over possible patient errors were among the concerns highlighted by the pharmacists.

The report examines current challenges to the recruitment and retention of pharmacists in community and hospital settings and provides, for the first time, baseline data on emerging risks specific to this cohort.​

The report launch coincides with World Pharmacists Day, the theme of which this year is “Pharmacists Strengthening Health Systems”.

It was commissioned in response to emerging global and national trends in pharmacy and healthcare workforce challenges, and the absence of any previous strategic workforce planning initiatives for pharmacy in Ireland.

It also responds to the concerns raised by pharmacy stakeholders nationally regarding the challenges to the recruitment and retention of pharmacists.

High levels of administration, limited career progression opportunities, gaps in professional leadership, challenging working conditions, slow progress in technology and eHealth, and the importance of agreeing the future role for pharmacists within the integrated health system were among the key issues highlighted.

An important consideration of the report were the findings of a PSI survey measuring the sentiment of over 1,200 pharmacists.

This was conducted in November 2022, in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic; a period during which all sections of society, and in particular, healthcare, were under immense pressure, it said.

It provides a snapshot of pharmacists’ outlook at that time.

The survey also found that although over half of community and three-quarters of hospital pharmacists enjoyed their roles, stress was a common feature for both- community pharmacists (93pc) and hospital pharmacists (75pc).

"Furthermore, while over 90pc of respondents indicated that they had capacity for an increased scope of practice, respondents also spoke of a high administrative workload, absorbing time that could be better spent on clinical tasks. In addition, only one out of every five pharmacists that responded to the survey felt valued by the health system. Over a third cited technology developments and innovations, including electronic prescribing, as one of the most important areas where progress is needed to improve pharmacy workload and enable increased capacity for pharmacists to engage with patients.

The report contains six key recommendations with a series of actions, highlighting that a multi-agency stakeholder response is required to address the complex issue of workforce planning.

Actions include the establishment of a multi-agency group focused on national workforce planning; the production of an annual workforce pharmacy survey report; mandatory workforce survey for all pharmacists.

They also include considering the appointment of a Chief Pharmaceutical Officer; assessing the feasibility of a professional leadership body; setting and implementing a plan for the vision and role of pharmacy as part of future integrated healthcare; and developing a national strategy for the future role of pharmacy technicians.

Priority areas are the design and development of national eHealth projects with pharmacy involvement; introducing changes to reimbursement and regulatory processes that facilitate digital solutions to reduce the administrative burden associated with manual paper-based activities.

There is also a need to ensure there are enough students being trained to meet demand; conducting an annual sentiment survey of student experiences; streamlining the recognition process for pharmacists from non-EEA countries who wish to practise in Ireland.

PSI Registrar and Chief Officer, Joanne Kissane, said: “This work was undertaken with the objective of ensuring that we have a sufficient supply of trained pharmacists equipped to provide high-quality, safe, and effective services to the public. It is about ensuring improved patient outcomes and enhancing the healthcare system overall. It is our intention that we will continue to build upon the findings presented here today and continue to contribute data and insights about the pharmacy workforce to nationally led strategic workforce planning and modelling.​

“We recognise that the number of registered pharmacists continues to grow year on year, which is an extremely positive development. However, it is also important that we acknowledge the issues that have been raised by pharmacists, pharmacy students, and others, and take appropriate action, along with our colleagues in the Department of Health and other health and pharmacy stakeholders, to safeguard the future sustainability of the workforce to meet patient needs and play a full role in the development of the future integrated health system.

“Trends show that Ireland’s population growth will continue to impact healthcare provision in general, including access to treatment. The need to plan for the right care, by the right healthcare professional, in the right place, and at the right time has become more pertinent. Planning for the role that pharmacists will play in the health system is vital and can be realised by putting the necessary structures and policies in place.

“Safeguarding the supply of pharmacists for patient-facing settings is critically important, most particularly in the context of ensuring continued patient and public trust in pharmacy services and assuring high quality of care is provided.”