Research profile: James Barker

Keith Brunt, Faculty of Medicine, Saint John & James R. Barker, Faculty of Management

Caring for care-providers: Developing an online health-screening tool to investigate the mental health status and resiliencies of frontline community pharmacy staff

Quality medical management relies on community-based pharmacists. Pharmacists are the most accessible frontline healthcare workers in every community and highly skilled at triaging conditions associated with mental health, quality error-free pharmacological care and preventive measures such as flu vaccination and medication reviews. However, changing occupational pressures in community pharmacy practices, including adaptations wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating work requirements, create significant concerns for the mental wellbeing of these vital frontline healthcare workers. The absence of research on the mental health and resilience of pharmacists'—in comparison with physicians, nurses or paramedics—suggests a potential for significant shortfalls in pharmacists’ wellbeing as they learn to deal with their expanding scope of practice and with new work-safe conditions recently intensified by the pandemic.

Dr. James Barker, Faculty of Management, and Dr. Keith Brunt, Faculty of Medicine, Saint John, have launched the first-of-its-kind investigation of community pharmacists’ mental health to address the critical need to know how they are coping with escalating demands. Funded by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation and supported by pharmacist associations in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Barker and Brunt are presently trialing a comprehensive mental health inventory among community pharmacists in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Subsequently, they will administer the inventory to community pharmacists across Canada.