|Pharmacy working conditions
|Ended on 11/22/2023
I joined the pharmacy profession to help people in my rural community and chose retail because I truly enjoyed the environment and interactions with patients. All the things I love most about pharmacy are disappearing and becoming overshadowed by quotas, tasks, timers, and scores. We work in an environment where the pharmacist is being pulled in multiple directions at any given time—the ringing phone, prescriptions being dropped off/filled/verified/picked up, selling pseudoephedrine, counseling patients, checking in inventory, mailing prescription orders, giving vaccinations, speaking to other pharmacies for transfers, calling the helpdesk or insurance companies for troubleshooting, ringing up front store merchandise, making endless phone calls to remind patients of compliance and vaccinations, and the list goes on. A pharmacy is a busy and sometimes chaotic place (much like other retail and healthcare establishments) but somehow we are one of the most poorly staffed. Our work requires attention to detail and one hundred percent accuracy, every time, on everything. Therefore, being appropriately staffed with qualified technicians and pharmacists should be the foundation and basic expectation. It is baffling to me that I can walk into a fast food restaurant, coffee shop, or convenience store and find more support staff than I can in our pharmacies. Also, those employees likely make more money than our technicians. Technicians are crucial to smooth operations and we should be paying them more than they could make selling food, coffee, or clothing. They have training, certification, experience, and need to be compensated appropriately so that we can retain their talent and run a safe and successful business. Furthermore, staffing needs to be consistent throughout the year. When we hire in the fall and cut hours in the spring, we have incredible turnover as many people don’t want a “seasonal” job in pharmacy, they want a career to support their family.
With all the additional work being placed on pharmacists and no additional hours for technicians, the overall morale in pharmacy is at an all-time low. We are exhausted and burned out from the amount of work and unreasonable corporate expectations without appropriate resources. We are also being reprimanded for not meeting flu shot goal, not completing weekly calls, not answering the phone in a specified amount of time, or exceeding the meager hourly budget for our technicians. It should be against the law for a pharmacist to work alone unless there is an absolute emergency. It is not safe for patient care with all the distractions and multitasking and could also put the sole pharmacist in a vulnerable position for a robbery or something of that nature. Busier stores should have multiple technicians at any given time and should have additional pharmacist overlap to safely maneuver the number of scripts, vaccinations, and other numerous tasks accurately and effectively. Pharmacist and technician hours should not be determined solely by script count. There are a multitude of other factors that should be examined when calculating the minimum number of hours for safe operations. Salaried employees are working many unpaid hours off the clock to attempt to dig out of the hole of unfinished work that only piles up again the next day. It is affecting our mental health and work-life balance. Lunch breaks should be uninterrupted for the pharmacist. The phones need to be turned off and gate closed so that we can use the restroom, eat, decompress, and recharge for a mere 30 minutes. This should also be a paid break for all pharmacists regardless of full or part-time status.
We need your help. We are at risk of making preventable errors. We feel defeated. We are not set up for success. We are not practicing pharmacy in the public’s best interest. We shouldn’t be expected to work alone. We need more technician hours. We need pharmacist overlap. Most importantly, we need specific and measurable laws to be set by the Board so that companies cannot skirt around them or claim it a “gray area”. It needs to be unambiguous and enforceable, otherwise nothing will change. I feel encouraged by the steps being taken to get us the support we need to safely practice pharmacy in our communities and fulfill our pharmacist oath.