Pharmacists say they are exhausted due to staff and demand for vaccines

  • Six current and former pharmacists told Insider about their experiences during the pandemic.
  • Pharmacists have described feeling stretched while dispensing COVID-19 drugs and vaccines.
  • Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid say they are recruiting more workers to meet growing demand.

In August 2021, Bled Tanoe was working as a pharmacy manager at an Oklahoma Walgreens when she saw staff morale decline. She told them that she would bring pizzas to strengthen the team, when she realized that a free pizza was nowhere near what she would need to deal with her overworked staff.

“The current state of pharmacies goes beyond gift cards, jeans or free pizza,” she told Insider, referring to some of the things companies have offered pharmacists this year. That day, she returned home and posted her thoughts under the hashtag “pizzaisnotworking”. When she woke up the next morning, she was shocked to see that it had been reposted over 500 times by other pharmacists sharing their own experiences.

“I was grateful for the support, but very sad that so many people in the industry felt this,” she told Insider.

Insider spoke to 6 current and former pharmacists from CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. Clinicians said they were exhausted from high workloads and had not received adequate support from pharmacies to deal with the increased workload due to COVID-19 vaccines.

Walgreens branches in Idaho recently reduced drugstore hours due to understaffing. Pharmacy patients have reported experiencing longer wait times at CVS, Walgreens and Walmart locations in Indiana, Colorado, Kentucky and Connecticut, according to local news reports.

The problem worsened as more people became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Food and Drug Administration cleared a Pfizer jab for children ages 5 to 11 last month, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended all adults receive a booster once eligible.

“We are immeasurably proud of the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians at Rite Aid, as well as their peers in retail pharmacies across the country, for their pivotal role in the battle against COVID-19,” said Jocelyn Konrad, manager from Rite Aid’s chief pharmacy, in a statement. , noting that the company is “aggressively recruiting” new hires.

A Walgreens representative recently told Insider that the company is recruiting pharmacists in the fall to meet demand for COVID-19 flu vaccinations, tests and vaccines. The company increased its minimum wage for hourly workers to $ 15 in August and offered technicians who become certified to administer flu and COVID-19 vaccines a reward of $ 1,000.

CVS told Insider the company is onboarding 20,000 new retail employees, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. The retail chain has also “started the process” of adding pre-programmed daily break hours.

Tanoe told Insider that the intense working conditions left her with the impression that she could cause harm without having enough time to do everything a pharmacist is supposed to do, like review all of a patient’s medications and check for allergies before dispensing a prescription.

Several other workers, who asked to remain anonymous, echoed Tanoe’s sentiments.

“We’re supposed to fill up hundreds of drugs a day, with less support staff and more workload,” a former Connecticut CVS pharmacist told Insider. “COVID has exacerbated this already inhumane situation. “

Another former CVS pharmacist in New York said she left in the fall in part because of fatigue and stress from work. (Insider-verified employment records of pharmacists who have requested to remain anonymous to protect their identities.)

At the start of the pandemic, the pharmacist said she had been the busiest in her entire career. But customers expressed gratitude for the pharmacists working during the first few months, which made her job enjoyable.

The pharmacist said she worked overtime and was always behind in filling prescriptions – and that was before the FDA cleared the vaccines. After people started coming in for the shots, pharmacists struggled to be the only clinicians who needed to check every prescription and administer the shots.

CVS told Insider that thousands of stores operate vaccination clinics with a separate team of pharmacists who do not fill prescriptions or counsel patients.

Still, the pharmacist recalled some patients who became restless as stores got busier, including some who snatched syringes from her hands to “check it out” due to fear of microchips or other ingredients. non-vaccine-induced disinformation.

“You could either focus on filling people’s prescriptions or focus on vaccines, but there was literally no way to do both,” the pharmacist told Insider.

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