Research Brief: Partnering with a pharmacist may decrease burnout among primary care providers

Jul. 15, 2019

More than 50 percent of physicians experience burnout, which can lead to increased depression and higher rates of suicide; poor patient outcomes; and increases in medical errors. One suggested path toward reducing the rate of burnout has been to examine how teamwork can improve satisfaction on primary care teams.

In a recently published study in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, a University of Minnesota-led research team researchers interviewed primary care providers (PCPs) — including physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants — to learn how the inclusion of pharmacists in primary care clinics impacts PCPs’ clinical work, professional satisfaction and burnout. 

Pharmacists in participating clinics provide a defined service called comprehensive medication management (CMM). Through CMM, all medications are assessed to ensure appropriateness, safety, and that they meet desired goals and can be taken as prescribed.

Kylee Funk, lead author and an assistant professor at the College of Pharmacy, notes the research team found that PCPs described the pharmacist as a collaborative partner and a professional who contributes a complementary knowledge and skill set. 

When pharmacists are embedded in a clinical team, PCPs experienced improvement in work-life aspects: 

  • decreased workload;
  • satisfaction patients are receiving better care;
  • reassurance;
  • decreased mental exhaustion;
  • enhanced professional learning;
  • increased provider access;
  • achievement of quality measures. 

These seven themes identified in the study center around how the pharmacist improved PCP work-life — which includes clinical work and professional satisfaction — were aligned with drivers of burnout previously documented in academic literature. 

“As a medical community, we are very concerned about burnout,” said Funk. “Our findings are promising for healthcare leaders who are seeking solutions to decrease burnout and improve joy in work. It is exciting to identify that working with a pharmacist may offer very important benefits for clinicians.”

Previous research has already shown benefits to patients when pharmacists are part of a collaborative team with PCPs.

Funk notes the U of M study demonstrates that PCP teams that include a pharmacist embedded in the primary care clinic might be one strategy for addressing provider burnout. Future research will continue to focus on PCP-pharmacist working relationships in a more quantitative fashion to further investigate this finding. 

This research was completed in conjunction with the University of North Carolina and the American Academy of Family Physicians National Research Network and was funded by The American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) and the ACCP Foundation Grant Enhancing Performance in Primary Care Medical Practice through Implementation of Comprehensive Medication Management.

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About the College of Pharmacy
Founded in 1892, the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy is the only pharmacy school in Minnesota, with campuses in the Twin Cities and in Duluth. The College of Pharmacy improves health through innovative education, pioneering research and interdisciplinary practice development that attends to the diverse needs of the people of Minnesota and the world.