No, I’m not talking politics here… I’m talking about burnout. While I’m focused on my first profession of pharmacy here when it comes to preventing burnout, it can apply to any and all professions, really.

First off, Americans are terrible at taking their vacation days. So much so that we’re leaving about 226 million vacation days on the table each year. Millennials are the worst when it comes to taking their vacation. I think high paying/higher prestige professions are also worse about vacation, because we’re all pretty much Type A, and we believe that the world will fall apart if we leave the office or hospital for a week or two.

(Hint: they won’t.)

Pharmacists are clearly burned out. So are pharmacy students. Even preceptors can feel the burn.

Of all the research I did on this topic, it said very clearly we really should be taking our vacations.* There are many benefits to taking time off, like–

It makes us more creative.

It makes us more innovative.

We’re more productive when we return to the office.

We’re less likely to get burnout when we go away and return.

One of the all-time favorite experiences of my life has been the sabbatical from the day job in Fall 2013. I planned it long before I took it, came up with lots of possibilities and explored them, and even in type A fashion created a binder full of possibilities. While I ended up doing radically different things than all the options I planned, it was actually super fun to plan. To think of all the possibilities was – liberating. I love the TED talk about the design firm as well that shuts down for a year after every 7 years.

Now I know this is extreme vacationing, and we all might not have that type of long-term time off, are you absolutely sure you can’t take a sabbatical, or at least your vacation time off? Companies are starting to mandate it.

Pharmacists and healthcare workers are a stressed out bunch. We’ve been asked to do even more with less. I totally get it. But as someone who is really working 4 jobs right now, I also know that if I don’t get away on my vacation time, I get extra crispy and lose the capacity for innovative ideas. We’ve got to take our vacations to restore and rejuvenate ourselves – if not only for ourselves, but for our employers…and ultimately, our customers and patients.

*As an interesting side note, in many pharmacist salary surveys online, I did not find where anyone was tracking vacation as a benefit for pharmacists within the surveys. In a reddit post, it appears that retail pharmacists earn between 2-3 weeks of paid time off, hospital pharmacists about the same, and from my experience with pharma industry, pharmacists can earn up to 5 weeks of paid time off to the extreme. But, because of our poor reporting of this metric in salary surveys, that in and of itself is a message that we don’t value vacation as part of the benefit package. Should we?

Erin Albert is an associate professor of pharmacy at Butler University.

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