Burnout and work engagement levels in community pharmacists residing in three counties of the United Kingdom

  • Peter G. Thomas

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The concept of burnout has been ascribed several meanings over the years, and concerns have been raised about the lack of clarity and consensus in the defining criteria. However, the most popular definition to emerge is the multidimensional description by Maslach where burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do people work of some kind. Burnout can result from prolonged periods of stress or excessive workload. The aim of this research was to describe burnout and job engagement in a sample population of community pharmacists.

Methods: A mixed method approach of quantitative and qualitative methods was used; both these methods are widely used within organisational psychology. The study was composed of two discrete but overlapping parts, each using a different but complementary methodology: a quantitative first part informing a qualitative second part. A self-administrated questionnaire was posted to all pharmacists in residing in the Local Practice Forum covering Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (n=1170). Respondents completed a questionnaire pack comprising the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS) and the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES-9) together with questions of demographic characteristics, both survey instruments have been widely used in job burnout and engagement studies. A letter was also included inviting respondents to take part in the qualitative part of this study and ethical approval was granted by the Bioscience Research Ethics Committee at the University of Portsmouth. The MBI-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS) measures the three sub-scales of burnout, "emotional exhaustion," "depersonalization" and "personal accomplishment." The survey consists of 22 items designed to assess the three dimensions of burnout and the items are scored on a seven-point Likert scale ranging from zero (never) to 6 (every day), indicating the frequency of feelings and attitudes experienced. The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) measures the three constituting dimensions of work engagement: vigour, dedication, and absorption, and consists of 9 items designed to measure the three dimensions. All items are scored on a 7-point frequency rating scale ranging from 0 (never) to 6 (everyday). Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics (means, standard deviations, skewness and kurtosis) and calculated for all scales and subscales. Non-parametric tests were performed as the data was not normally distributed, and analysed using SPSS V 18.0. Regression analysis was performed to investigate the relative contribution of the different stressors and demographic variables to the variance in burnout and engagement. Internal consistency of the three subscales of MBI-HSS and UWES-9 was computed using Cronbach‟s alpha. Qualitative data were obtained using a combination of focus group, semi-structured interviews and electronic interviews and transcribed verbatim. Template analysis was used to develop a hierarchical list of codes representing themes and the relationship between themes.

Results/Discussion: A total of 702 questionnaires were returned from a sample population of 1170 pharmacists residing in the Wessex LPF, giving an overall response rate 60%. Out of which 72.36% (n= 508) indicated that community pharmacy was their main job role. Demographic data of respondents was compared to previous workforce data and showed that 63.2% (n=321) were female and 36.4 %(n=185) were male. Respondents showed high scores on the Emotional Exhaustion scale (Mean 35.28, SD 12.10), high levels of depersonalisation (Mean 14.23, SD 6.48) and Low levels of Personal Accomplishment (Mean 42.86, SD 8.14).This gives an overall picture of a high degree of burnout within the sample population. Regarding engagement the mean score of 4.64,SD 3.74 indicates that the sample population has average levels of job engagement. Qualitative data results combined focus group (n=5), semi-structured interviews (n=9), telephone (n=5) and electronic interviews (n=5) and themed into positive/negative work and patient related events. Qualitative data indicated that community pharmacists are finding that paperwork/administration, skill mix, responsible pharmacist regulations, availability of dispensing stock and the demands of patients being factors that might contribute to burnout levels. Possible signs of job engagement included enjoyable patient events such as helping a patient and appreciation of a job well done by line management.

Conclusions: This research has several implications for community pharmacy practice and service development. A significant proportion of pharmacists in this sample population suffered from burnout, and if this data were extrapolated to all community pharmacists and if those pharmacists were unable to detect and acknowledge the signs of burnout, disillusionment with the profession might follow. Employers, professional bodies and employees should become aware of the causes and symptoms of burnout and if possible monitor burnout levels on a regular basis, this could help them become aware of their own and others levels of burnout.
Date of AwardAug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorJane Portlock (Supervisor)

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