Student’s Research Seeks Prescription for Pharmacy Fatigue

OGDEN, Utah – What toll does fatigue take on pharmacists who work 12-hour shifts?

That was the question Weber State University psychology student Amy Friend set out to address back in 2009 when she took part in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program funded by the National Science Foundation. Her findings recently took her to Washington, D.C.

Friend, who grew up in Evanston, Wyo., was curious about how working half the day affected professionals. Working as a cashier in a retail pharmacy in South Ogden at the time, Friend decided to examine the role of fatigue on her colleagues.

“In the past, research with pharmacists usually occurred by conducting interviews only after an error was made,” Friend explained. “I decided to measure fatigue based on three factors: time of day, day in the workweek, and overall workload.”

Friend spent three weeks evaluating three pharmacists and two technicians at the same location. The participants were evaluated based on their perceived fatigue, pupils’ responsiveness to light and body temperature. She also gave each subject 30 seconds to study a list of 15 words. They then had 30 seconds to recall as many of the words as possible.

As expected, the later in the day and the later in the workweek, the more fatigue was reported. The most surprising discovery, however, related to workload.

“The number of prescriptions they filled during a shift was the biggest contributor to fatigue,” Friend said. “The more prescriptions filled, the greater the fatigue.”

Friend suggests that possible countermeasures might include mental exercises that stimulate the brain, but given the small sample size, additional research and data would be valuable to corroborate her initial findings.

When Friend first came to WSU, she planned on pursuing a degree in elementary education. A human development course taught by a psychologist sparked an interest in psychology. That led her to an introductory psychology class taught by professor Lauren Fowler.

“Dr. Fowler is amazing,” Friend said. “I’ve taken every course she teaches.”
She credits Fowler for inspiring her to become a psychology major and encouraging her to pursue undergraduate research opportunities.

After presenting her findings at undergraduate research conferences in Montana and on campus, the highlight was being invited to represent Utah at the annual National Posters on the Hill event held on Capitol Hill last month.
Friend’s presentation was one of only 74 selected from more than 700 submissions nationwide. Given her Wyoming roots, Friend was the only representative for both Utah and Wyoming at the event.

As a result, she had the chance to meet with members of both Utah’s and Wyoming’s congressional delegations. Friend was especially impressed by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who took time out of his busy schedule to leave the Senate floor and meet with her personally.

Friend will graduate from WSU in December and plans to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology. As a teen she founded a youth group, an experience she said inspires her to someday work with young people in a school or hospital setting.

“My research has opened so many doors for me, including this trip to D.C.,” Friend said. “It has been such an important part of my education at Weber State.”

This is the sixth time in seven years that a WSU student has been invited to represent the state of Utah at the prestigious annual event. Friend joins Christian Petersen (2010), Lindsay Cole (2008),Kristena Kons (2007), Kalista Francom (2006) and Eric Gabrielsen (2005) on the list of WSU students who have been invited to present their research at Posters on the Hill.

The annual Undergraduate Research Posters on the Hill event is sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research. The event provides a way to thank lawmakers for their support of federally funded scientific research and to demonstrate the results of that research at colleges and universities across the country.

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Amy Friend, psychology student
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John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
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