Nobody signed up for this.
No one expected to be so tired of the daily tasks required of a pharmacist. No one expected to feel burned out and miserable at work.
“I feel like I’m running a race with no finish line,” one pharmacist told me recently, and she isn’t alone. Over the last 9 months, I’ve talked to many pharmacists who are exhausted. They feel helpless to do anything about it because voicing their concerns publicly could come back to haunt them in future interviews.
Instead, they commiserate with other pharmacists. They take no action; they make no progress toward improving their situations. They stay stuck.
Interestingly, if everyone compared notes, they would discover that the pharmacists headed for burnout are feeling many of the same things. They would discover that there are nine traits common to burned out pharmacists, as well as to the pharmacists who are headed for burnout.
1. You never meet management’s expectations.
You may feel like you’re drowning in your workload. Although management may not intend to make you feel that way, you often feel like a failure. You never feel accomplished because the target always seems to be moving. While you were busy working on the priorities they set for you, the priorities changed. It’s a little like being submerged under water and fighting to catch a breath. Nevertheless, management continues to ask more of you daily.
2. Everything is a number one priority.
Leadership constantly sets, and changes, your priorities. Yesterday’s must-do task is no longer the priority, and the task you set aside yesterday is now number one. Management believes that every task is a top priority, which means that nothing has top priority because it’s all important. When you use your own discretion to prioritize your tasks, it feels like you’re always wrong.
3. Your schedule is awful.
Management changes your schedule, and it looks nothing like the one you discussed during the hiring process. Perhaps management put you in a floater position to cover nighttime hours, or they slowly cut back your hours. Maybe management changed you to the night shift after hiring you for the day shift. Since you just got hired, can you really complain about your schedule? Are you confident enough in your position to argue for the schedule they promised you?
4. Your day lacks meaningful moments.
You spend so much time doing monotonous day-to-day tasks that you have no time to finish the tasks that make a difference in your job. For pharmacists who are experiencing burnout, meaningful moments with customers happen once a week at most, and that simply isn’t enough to create a feeling of fulfillment or satisfaction.
5. You hate what you do on a daily basis.
Many pharmacists feel like they were duped. They spent four years pursuing a job they thought would be interesting only to find it was nothing like they expected. Pharmacy feels like a mistake, and they find themselves contemplating whether a different, more enjoyable job, is worth the 70 percent pay cut.
6. Company values don’t equal your values.
Many pharmacists believe that their company values money more than patients, and the company’s priorities reflect that. Very few of management’s priorities involve meaningful patient care; instead, they seek more money and offer fewer services. Given that many people choose pharmacy as a means to help people, there is an immediate disconnect. If your core values (helping people) don’t align with your company’s core values (making money), you will certainly feel unsatisfied.
7. You lack a connection between your work and your purpose.
You’ve invested your time and you’ve invested yourself in pharmacy, yet it all feels meaningless. You have no sense of purpose. You’re disappointed with how things have progressed, but you believe you have nothing to show for your time. You believe you lack the experience to do anything other than pharmacy, and you haven’t networked enough to even have any options. From where you sit, you have nothing of value to offer any company.
8. You don’t feel like you’re helping anyone.
You may occasionally catch a drug interaction or counsel a patient about a medication with a lot of side effects, but otherwise, you don’t feel like you’re helping anyone. That’s a problem if you’re among the pharmacists who chose pharmacy because you wanted to help people. Helping people is the core of every job: architects help people create buildings, and customer service representatives help people solve problems. Pharmacists lack opportunities to help people, which results in great dissatisfaction.
9. You feel trapped.
You are surrounded by bad choices. Either take a different job with a significant pay cut or stay where you are and continue to be miserable. Leaving your job doesn’t even feel like an option because you have only limited experience and you’re convinced that no one else will hire you.
You don’t have to settle for this lack of fulfillment.
I know this because a few years ago, I felt exactly the way you do today. I was miserable in my job, disappointed in my career trajectory, and desperate for change. I felt like pharmacy was the wrong choice for me, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to support my family if I left pharmacy.
In the face of that pressure, I began a “side hustle” helping pharmacists find better careers and launch businesses that create freedom and income. I’ve worked with countless professionals to help them take control of their careers and their finances.
These professionals were just like you at one point, but they made a decision to do something. Instead of commiserating, they decided to take action.
Perhaps you should do the same.
I am hosting a masterclass every month to help pharmacists break free from burnout and discover satisfying work. Seats are limited and attendance is free, so signing up is an easy first step.
Then, visit The Happy PharmD and read stories of other pharmacists who have found satisfying work and financial freedom by using their experiences and strengths to help people around them.
Take an important first step and start crafting a story that may someday encourage others.
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.