In recent years large pharmaceutical corporations such as CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart have consistently slashed pharmacy staffing levels while simultaneously increasing the burden on their frontline workers with an increasingly significant list of additional duties. A decade ago locations might have had teams of two pharmacists and six pharmacy technicians filling approximately 500 prescriptions a day. Today, many such locations have half that number of staff and an even higher prescription volume while simultaneously handling vaccine appointments, rapid tests, and patient consultation calls.
Rather than respond to the increased demands on pharmacists and pharmacy technicians by reducing work volume or hiring more staff, major pharmaceutical chains have increased the pressure on workers. A recent investigative news piece documented what pharmacy staff is experiencing. The article detailed how every task is timed and measured against corporate goals that reward speed and profits. Staff who do not fill prescriptions fast enough, answer the phones quickly enough, or drum up enough vaccination business can face discipline, reassignment, or termination. Burned-out pharmacists sound the alarm, saying “It’s nearly impossible to meet all the demands without cutting corners, and when corners get cut, patients can get hurt.”
What Is the Reason for So Many Pharmacy Errors?
While pharmacists must take an oath to hold patient safety in the highest regard prior to beginning their work, the massive internal pressures coming from their workplaces and their working conditions are increasingly forcing pharmacists to choose between that oath and their job security. Working conditions began to deteriorate even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but things have only become worse. This fall, the industry experienced a number of high-profile work walkouts as burned-out workers attempted to draw attention to the unsustainable working conditions.