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Many pharmacists may experience increasing workloads due to the
financial pressures on the profession with specific reference to the impact
of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Reforms.
Over recent years there have been
concerns about increased pharmacists’
workloads and the occurrence of
dispensing errors. A review of the
literature found that workload was
the most frequently cited cause of
dispensing errors by pharmacists in
community and hospital pharmacy
settings followed by interruptions,
distractions and inadequate lightning.
The impact of these factors could
therefore be significant and lead to
increased rates of dispensing errors.
In terms of workload, the Pharmacy
Board of Australia Guidelines for
dispensing medicines2 state the
‘Pharmacists should ensure that the
individual workloads under which
they operate are at reasonable and
manageable levels to:
• ensure the safety of the patient
• provide an appropriate
pharmaceutical service in an accurate,
professional and timely manner
• cope with fluctuations in workflow.
Patients’ unrealistic expectations in
relation to time taken to dispense
the prescription, or the need to meet
imposed maximum prescription waiting
times are considered not conducive
to the provision of such a service.
Pharmacist owners and managers are to
have in place suitable quality-assurance
systems and procedures for the
management of pharmacist workload.’
Another important factor in making
dispensing errors and a decreased
ability to identify errors is the impact of
work stress. A United States study found
that many pharmacists experienced
role overload that could lead to work
Increased workload and work
stress could lead to practitioner fatigue
that subsequently could impact on
patient care. The Code of Conduct
for registered health practitioners
specifically addresses the impact of
fatigue on practitioner health and
practitioners’ ability to care for patients
or clients and states that practitioners
should endeavour to work safe hours
A guidance document was prepared
by a project team led by the Pharmacy
Council of New Zealand in 2012 with
some practical advice about managing
workload pressures in pharmacy
practice.5 Table 1 provides a summary
of the stressors and some solutions
highlighted in the document.
» PHARMACY LEGAL
Dr Laetitia Hattingh is a Senior Lecturer at the School
of Pharmacy, Curtin University of Technology in
Perth, Western Australia and a co-author of Australian
Pharmacy Law & Practice.
Although definitions involving the ratio
of dispensed prescriptions per pharmacist
per hour or day provide some guidance
various other services add to pharmacists’
workload. There are limitations to the
use of volume-based measures of
workload in the pharmacy practice
setting as pharmacists are required to
interact with customers, supply non-
prescription medicine and provide advice,
deliver professional services and consult
with other healthcare professionals.
These other activities need to be
considered in workload models.
Although workplace pressures are
unavoidable it is important to avoid
these pressures becoming excessive or
unmanageable as this leads to pharmacists’
stress which could lead to errors.
1. James KL, Barlow D, McArtney R, Hiom S, Roberts D,
Whittlesea C. Incidence, type and causes of dispensing
errors: A review of the literature. International Journal of
Pharmacy Practice. 2009;17(1):9–30 .
2. Pharmacy Board of Australia. Guidelines for dispensing of
3. Mott D, Doucette W, Gaither C, Pedersen C, Scgommer J.
Pharmacists’ attitudes toward worklife: results from a national
survey of pharmacists. Journal of the American Pharmacists
Association. 2004;44(3):326–36 .
4. Pharmacy Board of Australia. Code of conduct for registered
health practitioners 2010.
5. Pharmacy Council of New Zealand. Workplace pressures in
BY DR LAETITIA HATTINGH, MPS
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