The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting & Exposition, APhA2019, held March 22–25, hosted almost 6,000 pharmacists and student pharmacists in Seattle. This year’s theme, Moving Pharmacy Forward, highlighted the pharmacist’s role in addressing public-health concerns and promoted personal and professional well being while continuing to prioritize patient-care services.

Citing the growing body of evidence on the increased stress and burnout among pharmacists and student pharmacists, Second General Session Keynote Speaker, Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE, of the Resiliency Group discussed how to create a healthy work-life balance by improving resiliency.  “Resilience is all about energy management. Do you have the mental, emotional, and physical hardiness to keep on keeping on? And how we get energy is through the connections that we make,” she said.

In her keynote presentation, titled “Overcoming Burnout: Building Resilience at Work and Home,” McDargh delineated techniques to help pharmacy practitioners avoid burnout in their work and at home, including flexibility, adaptability, tenacity, and perseverance—all elements of resilience. Resilience, she said, is an intangible trait that everyone wants but no one quite understands how to obtain. Resilience, she said, allows one to quickly adjust to changing circumstances, cope with pressure, and maintain a sense of control.

McDargh’s message aligns with APhA’s new major initiative to promote the well-being of pharmacists and pharmacy personnel. “Not only do you work incredibly long hours, you have patients coming in and asking you why they can’t get the drug that they want because their healthcare provider changed the formulary,” she said. “Is it any wonder that there are days that you go home and are so tired.”

“Is resiliency genetic?” McDargh asked attendees. “To some extent, it is,” she answered. According to McDargh, however, the good news is that we can retrain our brains to be more resilient. She suggested a series of actions that one can take to improve resiliency. “At the end of the day, resiliency is about energy management,” she said. “Not about bouncing back, it is about going through.”

Simple techniques, McDargh said, are effective in improving resiliency. For example, she recommended substituting the phrase “Choose to” for the phrase “Have to.” “This simple action puts you in control of your life.”

To maintain resilience, McDargh added, one must guard against the negative influence of others who she terms “red ants.” Intelligent optimism, another coping technique offered by McDargh, involves reframing otherwise negative situations as positive ones. When the situations calls for it, she also recommends listening to one’s heart and instincts, as opposed to one’s brain. She also keeps a “gratitude journal” and writes three things at the end of the day that she is thankful for, an exercise that enhances her positive outlook.

Meeting attendees heard techniques for building resilience in the context of a pharmacy practice. “The ability to say no is also important,” said McDargh. “Take time for yourself, and stop to breathe.” Summing up the power of a resilient mindset, McDargh reflected, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.”

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