‘Working during the COVID-19 pandemic has broken me’

I feel compelled to write my first letter to The Pharmaceutical Journal.

I have had a 33-year career in community pharmacy. I have worked full time for the majority of that time; however, by December 2022 I was done — burnt out.

I had pushed myself through the COVID-19 pandemic to be the ‘rock’ in our community but now there was nothing left to give. During the pandemic, the challenges were great; that is, workload, staff absences and customer expectations increased. 

My team and I rose to the challenge like many others within the health service; however, with doctors closing their doors, we took the brunt and, ultimately, I paid a price. Mentally, I knew something seemed wrong but I pushed myself to work through it.

I believed I was doing it for my country in a way — people were bashing pots and pans on a Thursday evening — but I felt isolated. By now, my wife was working from home and could not relate to the issues I was experiencing. 

I am a recovering alcoholic (18 years sober) so I knew not to resort to alcohol or other mood-altering substances but, owing to the workload (I’d go in on weekends and an hour early before work), I neglected other areas of my life — my marriage, my friends, my 12-step meetings. 

I decided to resign and took time out at the end of 2021. It felt like I had lost a limb. I felt so alone and a failure. But gradually, over the past nine months, I have come to terms with what happened. However,  there have been casualties like in a war: my marriage ended; my passion for work diminished. 

I cannot be the only one in this position and I wanted to shed light on this situation for healthcare professionals working in isolation — please pocket your pride and ask for help. I lost myself in service. I’ve been having counselling sessions, which has saved me more than once, to come to terms with my burnout. Time heals, I guess. 

The author of this letter wishes to remain anonymous

Pharmacist Support provides free and confidential advice and support to pharmacy workers as well as family members. Please call 0808 168 2233 or email info@pharmacistsupport.org

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, November 2022, Vol 309, No 7967;309(7967)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.165155


  • Richard Harris

    Thank you for this open and honest account

  • Margaret Gibbs

    You were doing it for your country - it was an incredibly difficult time when we were all being called upon to work as we hadn't before and the fear and lack of clear guidance resulted in some people behaving badly towards healthcare professionals. Hope you have found counselling has helped this time and that you may be able to return to work if this feels right. It's brave of you to share your feelings and will help others who may not feel able to do so. Wishing you well

  • Darren Powell

    An unbelievably brave account of a tragic situation. But your openness just might prompt someone to reach out for help and support sooner than they might have. The pharmacy profession often put others before themselves, but we need to realise that we need to be well, and functioning to help others.
    My best wishes to you, and I hope you find a positive future.


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