Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

National survey shows mental health of pharmacy professionals has improved but more support and investments needed to address continued challenges

In 2022, CPhA conducted the inaugural Canadian Pharmacy Mental Health and Workforce Wellness Survey, which revealed a concerning picture of the health of Canada’s pharmacy workforce after more than two years on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results guided our efforts to support the profession over the past year, including the formation of a Pharmacy Wellness Task Force and Workforce Steering Committee, and advocacy in a number of areas, including calls for increased investments in health human resources and workforce planning, mental health supports and student loan forgiveness.

We launched the 2023 survey to understand how pharmacy professionals are faring one year later and to inform our continued advocacy work in the areas of mental health and workforce wellness.

2023 survey: Moving in the right direction but the profession is still struggling

The 2023 national survey was open from February 27 to March 30 and was completed by 1,136 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. The results show that while the situation is improving, like many other health professions, more work is needed to improve the health and well-being of Canada’s pharmacy teams and support the profession.

One in three rated their mental health and well-being as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ over the past year, which represents an 11-point improvement compared with 2022. Risk of burnout among pharmacy professionals has decreased 13 points from 92% in 2022 to 79% in 2023. While also an improvement, it shows that workplace exhaustion and disengagement continue to be widespread.

Factors contributing to fulfillment

Fulfillment amongst pharmacy professionals has increased compared to last year but remains fairly low. The top factors contributing to fulfillment underscore the value placed on providing patient care, exercising professional autonomy and practising to full scope.

Factors negatively impacting mental health

When we look at the top factors negatively impacting pharmacy professionals’ mental health, we see the effects of a strained health care system, staffing challenges and increasing administrative burden in pharmacy.

Abuse remains high

While abuse from patients is down from 2022, it continues to be a significant workplace challenge. 37% of working pharmacy professionals experience abuse or harassment from patients at least weekly and 19% report that it happens daily.

Retention of pharmacy professionals

Retention in the health-care sector is a significant concern across all professions. According to a recent national survey of health workers conducted by HEAL, 40% of healthcare providers are considering leaving the field, citing mental health and well-being as well as working conditions and resource shortages as their main points of concern. Pharmacy professionals are no exception. 

Addressing the challenges

While this year’s survey shows some improvement in the mental health and wellness of our pharmacy teams compared to 2022, further support and investments are needed to ensure pharmacy teams can meet the growing needs of Canadians.

Many of the negative pressures on pharmacy professionals, including patient abuse and harassment, could be relieved by government action to better support community health care and pharmacy, specifically. Health workforce planning needs to be a priority and pharmacy must be included in these efforts. Ensuring there are enough pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to continue to expand into primary care would help address some of the workload pressures. Other challenges should be addressed through a national drug shortage strategy, efforts to reduce administrative burden and appropriate funding for pharmacy services, which would allow community pharmacies to be bring on more staff, including registered pharmacy technicians.

As governments across Canada continue to recognize the value of pharmacists by enabling and funding pharmacists to practice to full scope, provide more patient care and exercise their professional autonomy, we hope that mental well-being and feelings of fulfillment will continue to improve. From the expansion of prescribing authority to the launch of pharmacist-led walk-in clinics, we need to continue this recent momentum and ensure pharmacists are supported to practice autonomously and free from barriers.

Our commitment

There is no doubt that supporting and strengthening our pharmacy workforce is our most pressing challenge. Our Workforce Wellness Steering Committee and our Pharmacy Wellness Task Force are actively pursuing solutions that will enhance workforce planning efforts, support pharmacy professionals’ entry into practice and improve satisfaction and wellness within the profession.

Some of our recent and ongoing work includes:

  • The development of tools to support pharmacy teams. 
  • Workforce planning studies to gather data to better understand current and future pharmacy workforce needs and capacity
  • Continued advocacy for student loan forgiveness for pharmacists who work in rural in remote communities
  • Support for new entrants to practice to support both new graduates and newly arrived internationally trained pharmacists
  • Supporting provincial advocacy to improve reimbursement of pharmacy services
  • Addressing cost containment strategies that are impacting pharmacy operations

While we have a lot to accomplish, we are committed to supporting the pharmacy community and moving forward towards a sustainable and bright future for the pharmacy profession.