Effects of mental demands during dispensing on perceived medication safety and employee well-being: a study of workload in pediatric hospital pharmacies

Res Social Adm Pharm. 2010 Dec;6(4):293-306. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2009.10.001. Epub 2010 Feb 11.


Background: Pharmacy workload is a modifiable work system factor believed to affect both medication safety outcomes and employee outcomes, such as job satisfaction.

Objectives: This study sought to measure the effect of workload on safety and employee outcomes in 2 pediatric hospitals and to do so using a novel approach to pharmacy workload measurement.

Methods: Rather than measuring prescription volume or other similar indicators, this study measured the type and intensity of mental demands experienced during the medication dispensing tasks. The effects of external (interruptions, divided attention, and rushing) and internal (concentration and effort) task demands on perceived medication error likelihood, adverse drug event likelihood, job dissatisfaction, and burnout were statistically estimated using multiple linear and logistic regression.

Results: Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians reported high levels of external and internal mental demands during dispensing. The study supported the hypothesis that external demands (interruptions, divided attention, and rushing) negatively impacted medication safety and employee well-being outcomes. However, as hypothesized, increasing levels of internal demands (concentration and effort) were not associated with greater perceived likelihood of error, adverse drug events, or burnout and even had a positive effect on job satisfaction.

Conclusions: Replicating a prior study in nursing, this study shows that new conceptualizations and measures of workload can generate important new findings about both detrimental and beneficial effects of workload on patient safety and employee well-being. This study discusses what those findings imply for policy, management, and design concerning automation, cognition, and staffing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Medication Errors / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharmacists / organization & administration
  • Pharmacists / psychology*
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Pharmacy Technicians / organization & administration
  • Pharmacy Technicians / psychology*
  • United States
  • Workload / psychology*
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult