Community pharmacists and stress at the counter: qualitative exploratory initial Italian research

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Abstract

Objectives

Community pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals. They interact with a large number of patients who often show emotional concern. Their stressful and complex role is widely acknowledged, nonetheless research on their personal life is practically non-existent. Thus, we set out to qualitatively explore the emotional perceptions of pharmacists.

Methods

Twenty experienced pharmacists were interviewed by a psychologist and a pharmacist. Data were analysed using an interpretative phenomenological analysis and coded using NVivo qualitative data analysis software.

Key findings

Interviewed pharmacists admitted to different types of difficulties, mostly arising from a series of small, standalone episodes. Their stories describe intrinsic difficulties with their practice, rather than personal experiences. This study reveals the complexity of a community pharmacists' role – divided into health and hygiene advice, counselling and empathic relationships, and entrepreneurship. An important obstacle is the integration and concomitant implementation of these components. Endogenous factors such as personal experiences, personality and academic background, and exogenous factors such as social status of the patient population, legal and administrative issues and location, all affect pharmacists' ability to cope with their role.

Conclusions

Improving health care can be obtained by incorporating community pharmacists into the healthcare team. Technical training is important in order to improve relationship skills and personal coping strategies. Further studies are recommended to provide a simple tool for measuring aspects of the personal and emotional aspects (inner life) of a community pharmacist.

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