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5 Steps to Planning a Stress-less Pharmacy Christmas

Oh my goodness, where has the year gone? Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that preparing for Christmas and the end of year craziness is something that I love to start early. I would add, mid-October almost isn’t early! It’s time to get cracking!

The benefits of planning for Christmas early

  • Starting to plan early minimises the risk of burnout for everyone. It also minimises decision fatigue by avoiding having to think and do a million things once.
  • Creating a plan before you need it makes you plan better. A clear mind can think through possible problems before having to decide on a solution.
  • Proper preparation prevents poor performance. By spending time preparing now, you can mindfully chart the course to the end of the year and come home strong. If you don’t, it is likely that you will have the days and weeks dictating to you.  

So here are my five top tips to prepare for a stress-less Christmas:

Get Your Pharmacy in Order

Clutter decreases your productivity. Inevitably in busy times, things are going to get messy so spend some time and get the Pharmacy in order, physically and digitally. Start with what you can see and then work to the things hiding and lurking in draws or otherwise.  Don’t make a chore of it, do a little bit at a time or when you need a break. Also, don’t forget, this doesn’t have to be your job. Delegate!  A junior can clean out a draw while manning the counter. A dispense tech can go through old paperwork, get rid of the obvious and make a smaller ‘maybe’ pile for you to consider. Digitally, think about cleaning up the email, the desktop screen and putting the files you always use in an easy to access folder.

Review your daily processes

Reviewing your processes is an easy and thorough way to identify where you can ‘borrow time’ from. To begin, consider what tasks happen every day or every week. Then consider when it gets busy, what tasks can fall away without disastrous consequence. What must still be done? How will this be executed? Who can execute this? Is there an opportunity to upskill others now to minimize the workload of a few later?

Also, while reviewing your processes, complete a check-in and automate or streamline what you can. If it’s ordering stationery and print material, make a checklist made so a junior can check and complete an order. If it’s ensuring that there are always enough vaccination consent forms, create a quick access document to print from and identify someone to top up the folder each day.

Clinically, consider how will you cope with vaccinating if/when script volume picks up. Will it require a shift of rosters or personnel, or does it require upskilling to take some things off your plate? Now is the time to review processes. You may even find opportunities for optimisation to take beyond the new year.

Have everyone singing the same song.

Once you have reviewed your processes and daily tasks. Have a team meeting and relay to your staff the expectations for the festive season. Tell them what must still be completed and what you are happy to allow fall by the wayside for a month or two. There is nothing worse than staff feeling that they’re going to be in trouble if they don’t get their jobs done. Identify what is a priority and what doesn’t matter for the silly season. Having clear expectations about what is acceptable and unacceptable is key to having an aligned vision throughout the year and especially in times where ‘acceptable’ may deviate from the norm.

Also in communication, it is important to identify the way that information will be distributed and how you would like communication in return. Is the normal way of communication (for example, emails or a communication book) to remain the standard? Or, will there be an additional form of communication to distribute any extra information over and above the norm? It is also important to factor in how you would like to receive communication in return. Having staff talking to you about their holiday, or an order, or anything not urgent, while your dispensing is not safe nor practical. If there are standard things you need to be communicated back to you, if appropriate, consider a way that doesn’t require you to be at the beck and call of every staff whim. If there are big things to talk about or things that aren’t urgent, possibly suggest a quiet time to reconvene that is safer and more practical for both of you.

Prepare what you can in advance

Pharmacy is a very reactive profession. While we can never fully know what is going to walk through the door, we can however prepare and in turn free up time to deal with the urgent things that inevitably appear. Preparing in advance can look like, ensuring that everyone has their holidays in and completing the roster up until mid-January. It can be handing out a flyer to all the DAA patients and asking them to identify if they will be requiring packs outside their usual pick-up times. The same goes for people for who you do special orders. Within reason, it may mean doing increased orders at the start of the month to minimize the stock you need to put away daily. Anything that you can think of that needs to happen between now and January 1 is on the table to see if you can do a little of it now.

Plan a reset for yourself

Christmas will be busy. Let’s be real, the whole year has been busy. Do you need a break? Can you schedule even a day or two off here or there? Making sure you are mentally set for the final push through to the end of the year is one of the key weapons in your arsenal. Time off is not weak, it’s not ‘doing nothing,’ and believe it or not, the world will not end. Having time off to recharge your batteries is an important part of success and minimizing burnout. Keep this high on the priority list. Never forget, as a pharmacist you work in health…your fatigue can put people’s lives at risk. So next time you say, ‘I can’t take a day off because the Pharmacy needs me.’ Consider, ‘what could be the cost to yourself or someone else if you don’t?’

The wrap up

The way you prepare in the upcoming weeks will directly impact on how stressful Christmas feels. Of course, last-minute things happen but if the bulk of the planning is done, it’s merely about adjusting the plan rather than creating one from scratch.

Remember, you hold the key to charting your own course to a stress-less Christmas!

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