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How much stress is too much?

"If you ask someone whether they're stressed, they’re not going to say, 'Nah, mate – my job’s a piece of piss!'"

A little pressure can be a good thing, says Xrayser

It’s now official that we’re stressed professionals. Research published by mental health charity Mind matches C+D’s Salary Survey 2016, showing that three-quarters of pharmacists are under stress at work.

And yet we’re not the most pressured by a long way, as it appears levels of stress for other primary care workers, including doctors, nurses, and even practice managers, are close to 90%.

Really? Who are these primary care workers with higher stress levels – paramedic bomb disposal teams?

But with all due respect to the C+D surveyors and the good folk at Mind, such surveys are, of course, completely subjective.

If you ask someone whether they're stressed, they’re not going to say, “Nah, mate – my job’s a piece of piss!” They’re going to lay it on with a trowel.

Everyone thinks they work under pressure. You only have to look at industrial action threatened by railway staff who are considering striking this month in a dispute over their work-life balance.

Imagine if pharmacists were to demand the same. We’d have pharmacy union reps outside the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) office saying, “Our members believe that the management have reneged on their promise of winding back from a 100-hour week to a more manageable 12-hour day.

“However, we’re pleased to announce that we have secured a five-minute lunch break and a total of two trips to the loo in any 10-hour period.”

Of course, these surveys get it wrong because, really, we like a bit of stress to relieve the boredom and we do our best work when under pressure.

You only have to watch the Olympic Games so see people perform the most complex athletic manoeuvers with the most ridiculous distractions.

The cycle pursuit seems to be a sport in which you propel yourself at high speed while looking backwards all the time.

The synchronised diving takes place off a board 30 feet in the air during a rainstorm, into a luminous green pool against the backdrop of RIO rush-hour traffic, with horns and sirens blaring.

The real problem for pharmacy is to work out when the pressure is too great, which is not always easy.

I had a similar problem years ago when I fell out of the loft at home. It hurt like hell, obviously. But the A&E doctor reckoned I'd be in more pain if I'd broken anything.

So I thought maybe I was just being wimpy until an X-ray revealed I had, in fact, fractured two vertebrae. The point is that I didn’t know how much pain was too much pain.

And it's the same with stress. How much stress is good and how much is too much?

I guess if you walk into the dispensary and find the pharmacist lying on the floor sobbing – as one of our staff did at her previous place of employment – then maybe they’ve not got their work-life balance quite right.

At C+D, we also want to raise awareness of the experiences of pharmacists who are struggling under workplace pressures – whether that’s from tough targets, inflexible area managers or under-staffing. So send your examples to [email protected], with the heading ‘pharmacy pressures’, and make sure to state if you want us to keep your identity anonymous.


Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Our stress is causd by three things - pressure from above (ie area managers and targets) pressure from below (patients and staff) and then the biggie, that during a normal days work, a few seconds of distraction could kill someone and get us put in prison. I think our situation is pretty unique in that way.

Andy Bird, Head/Senior Manager


Good article.

Keeping a good perspective on things is critical.

Lose that and the world can easily seem a very stressful place.



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