Burnout and stress prompts a quarter of pharmacists to consider quitting profession

Frustration rife over lack of clear career path and high levels of administration, Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland report finds

More than half of pharmacists plan to leave their current role, and one-quarter are likely to exit the profession, due to burnout, high stress levels and other workplace issues, according to a new report.

Over 90 per cent of community pharmacists, and three-quarters of hospital pharmacists, say job stress is a common feature of their role, a survey for the report commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the regulator for the profession, found.

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. Cramped work spaces and worries over possible patient errors were concerns for hospital pharmacists.

Burnout was reported by 73 per cent of community pharmacists and 57 per cent of hospital pharmacists.


Further, 57 per cent of community pharmacists, and 78 per cent of hospital pharmacists, said they were not sufficiently staffed.

The report, the first to examine emerging risks to the future availability of pharmacists in Ireland, highlights the frustrations in the profession over the lack of a clear career structure and leadership opportunities. Other problems identified by members of the profession in the survey and in focus groups were high levels of administration, limited career progression opportunities, challenging working conditions and slow progress in technology.

Community pharmacists spend more than half their time completing technical or administrative tasks, according to the survey of over 1,200 practitioners. Dispensing of prescriptions, which takes up the greatest proportion of their time, was found to be “particularly tedious”. Pharmacists said this task should be delegated as “it was deemed to be a poor use of their time and skillset”.

The report recommends a new group be set up to plan the pharmacy workforce, the appointment of a chief pharmaceutical officer in the Department of Health, greater use of e-health approaches to reduce the administrative burden on pharmacists and the establishment of a forum on best practice for working conditions. It also says measures are needed to ensure enough students are training in pharmacy, and to streamline the recognition process for pharmacists from outside the EU who want to work here.

There are over 7,000 registered pharmacists in Ireland, up from about 4,500 in 2010. Last year, there were 14 pharmacists per 100,000 people, up from under 12 in 2018 and well above the global average of 7.4.

PSI registrar Joanne Kissane described the increase in number as an extremely positive development. “However, it is important that we acknowledge the issues that have been raised by pharmacists and others, and take appropriate action, to safeguard the future sustainability of the workforce.”

Globally, the World Health Organisation has predicted a shortfall of 10 million healthcare workers by 2030.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.