Have you experienced long lines when trying to pick up your prescriptions or had trouble getting a COVID-19 test at the pharmacy? You aren't alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on the pharmacy industry and led to a pharmacist shortage in 2022.
Pharmacy technicians who assist the pharmacists in doling out prescriptions are also in short supply. Although labor shortages are happening in practically all industries, a lack of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians might have a greater impact on consumer health.
Why are pharmacists quitting their jobs?
Long hours, stagnate wages, limited staff support, and angry customers are a few reasons why pharmacists and technicians are leaving their jobs for other positions. Retail pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS, and RiteAid are specifically feeling the pinch. Some pharmacists are leaving to take positions in hospitals, which offer better pay.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for pharmacists was $128,710 in 2020. Although that might sound high, pharmacists say that wages haven’t increased even though they’ve taken on more responsibilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, pharmacists' roles have shifted from just filling prescriptions to giving COVID-19 tests and vaccines.
The recently released 2022 National Pharmacy Workplace Survey from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA) found that 47 percent of respondents said that they worked more hours during the pandemic.
Pharmacists are a greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
Being on the front lines of the pandemic also puts pharmacists at greater risk of contracting the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 180,000 healthcare workers, pharmacists and technicians included, have died from COVID-19 between January 2020 and May 2021.
Maryland pharmacist Sean Boynes, 46, died of COVID in March 2020. Although he and his family had concerns about the spread of the virus, he continued to work because he was the only pharmacist and didn’t want to abandon his patients, his wife told The Washington Post in 2020.
The political division over COVID-19 and the vaccines have also impacted the pharmaceutical industry. In October 2021, a pharmacist was killed by his brother, who thought he was poisoning people with the vaccine.
Pharmacists have to deal with angry customers.
Pharmacists and technicians have also had to deal with a growing number of unruly patients and customers. Pharmacy technician Emily Sis-Sosa, 26, told The New York Times that angry customers have thrown empty prescriptions bottles and insurance cards at her. Sis-Sosa decided the $16.95 per hour job wasn’t worth it and left for a different position, the Times reports.
“Addressing pharmacy personnel harassment and bullying by patients/consumers is critical. Pharmacy personnel should not fear for their safety when providing patient care and serving their community’s health care needs,” said Rebecca Snead, RPh, the executive vice president and CEO of NASPA, in a statement.
Social media campaigns address pharmacist burnout.
The issue of pharmacist burnout prompted Oklahoma City pharmacist Bled Tanoe to start the social media campaign #PizzaIsNotWorking. Tanoe also started the Facebook group “Pharmacy Staff for COVID-19 Support” to address issues pharmacists have been facing during the pandemic.