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‘I tackled my stress in the pharmacy by playing contact rugby’

Pharmacy professionals need to make the time to switch off from workplace pressures, which Laura Buckley did through playing a sport

Being a pharmacist can be overwhelming at times. The C+D Salary Survey revelation that 74% of pharmacists suffer with stress has become a figure we are all familiar with. The parliamentary event C+D and Pharmacist Support held in September brought the reality of pharmacists’ pressures to the forefront of sector leaders’ minds. But what can pharmacists and pharmacy staff do to help ourselves?

Between working full-time as a pharmacy manager, blogging, and using social media to spread the word about the work of pharmacies, I live and breathe pharmacy. Even when not working, pharmacists get messages from family or friends asking about ‘this rash’ or ‘that symptom’. If you, like me, live in the community where you work as a pharmacist, you might get stopped when you’re out and about to answer a quick question about health or medicines.

And while I have never minded passing on advice where appropriate, in August I began to feel swamped. The switch to ‘pharmacist me’ felt permanently on, like something had got stuck behind the off button. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about work.

Something had to be done. With a fortuitous push from a friend in the direction of the local rugby team, I suddenly found myself running haphazardly around a grassy pitch, kitted out with shorts, studded boots and a gum shield. What had I done?

The first session playing contact rugby got my heart pounding and knocked the wind out of me several times. The rush of adrenaline was incomparable. I had trudged up to the pitch with the weight of the pharmacy world on my shoulders – I used my frustrations to drive every tackle, shove and pass. In just over an hour on the pitch, I’d turned the pharmacist switch off.

Medicines use reviews? Tackled away. Targets? Pushed off in the scrum. Staff shortages? This was a team with substitutes. Three months later and I’ve played two games, scored my first try and met some amazing people. The game gives me something to work towards through the week, an opportunity to destress and, most importantly, time to shed responsibility.

While joining the local rugby team might not work for all my pharmacy colleagues, making time for yourself is essential. I wish I had done it sooner. Being a part of the pharmacy culture is great, but we all need to practise a form of self-care and find our off switch. If there’s something I’ve learned from joining the local rugby team, I’m more focused at work when I’ve made time for myself at home.

As pharmacy staff, we provide care to millions of people every year. We go above and beyond to ensure the health of others, and we worry about patients as if they were our extended family.

To provide excellent care for others, we must practise what we preach and take care of ourselves.

Laura Buckley is a community pharmacist based in north England

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