Teresa Elsobky, PharmD, BCPP
FACT: Student pharmacists are stressed.
No matter how far along student pharmacists are in their education, pharmacy school is stressful.1 Stress impacts mental health with evidence showing that high stress levels can lead to isolation, withdrawal, anxiety, depression, and compromised quality of life among graduate and professional students, including pharmacy students.2,3 There is hope and solutions!
If you are a member of a national pharmacy organization, it is very likely that you have come across a webinar, a listserv email, or a conference session on wellbeing. Wellbeing is, simply put, the element of being well.4 It is the state of being healthy, happy, and effective,4 and includes all domains of life. Organizations, institutions, and employers have started to focus on this concept. More specifically, Colleges and Schools of Pharmacy across the country have begun to dedicate themselves to enhancing wellbeing among their students.
In order to be truly well, certain practices should be common, and the practices must be intentional and purposeful. Start Here, a book written by Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp, PhD, outlines a program comprised of practices that should be utilized in order to enhance a person’s wellbeing. From meditation to contribution, the book talks about nine practices that are designed to help one feel less anxious and less depressed, and more focused and more centered. According to the authors, these improvements will lead to increased productivity, stronger relationships, and more meaningful and happier lives.
Contribution is the giving of yourself, your time, and/or your resources without expecting anything in return.5 There is not one single right way of contributing. Contribution can be volunteering at a hospital, giving a snack to a person who is in need, or providing a helping hand to an elderly individual. It is kindness shown5 and the benefits of it are overwhelming. By giving, enhancements in people’s immune systems have been shown and individuals living with chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, have been shown to live longer.5 Stress levels drop, isolation rates decrease, and mood is elevated.5
With all of these health benefits, faculty members, preceptors, and supervisors should encourage their students to be involved in community service initiatives. On the surface, it may seem to students that time spent volunteering is time taken away from studying, which may add to the stress that is already there. The benefits of this “taken” time, however, far exceed the cost of giving this time. Through community service, stress levels decrease and mood is positively affected,5 leading to increased productivity when students are studying and performing in school. Students are benefiting themselves while benefiting the lives of the people around them.5
Education on the benefits of community service is key. This knowledge will be vital when encouraging student pharmacists to participate in volunteering opportunities. By helping others, they are helping themselves in so many ways, and it is imperative that they know that. In addition to educating students, pharmacists should be encouraged to model these practices. Pharmacy faculty, preceptors and supervisors should be involved in community service initiatives as well and model these beneficial practices for their student pharmacists.