(NewsNation) — Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacist shortages continue to plague drugstores across the country.
In 2022, over 70% of community pharmacies were struggling to fill staff positions, particularly for technician and front-end staff roles, a National Community Pharmacists Association survey found.
Retail chains like Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS and Walmart have cut or adjusted their pharmacy operating hours over the past year due to staffing shortages, but still don’t have enough employees behind the counter.
Customers have noticed.
John Staed, of Pelham, Alabama, said a CVS pharmacist gave him the wrong prescription about a decade ago: the pills were a different color than usual. He worries the chances for another mistake could increase as pharmacists take on more work.
“These pharmacists always look stressed,” he said.
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Larger drugstore chains often operate stores with only one pharmacist on duty per shift, said Richard Dang, an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Southern California. That kind of thin staffing can make it hard to recruit employees.
“I think that many pharmacists in the profession are hesitant to work for a company where they don’t feel supported,” said Dang, a former president of the California Pharmacists Association.
Retail pharmacy chains are working to reduce workplace stress brought on by the increased workload amid shortages, by allowing more breaks, increasing wages, offering retention bonuses and reducing store hours.
Employers are also proposing professional development support as an initiative, offering to cover the expenses for further education, professional memberships and training programs.
It is yet to be seen whether these measures will help the pharmacist shortages but Pharmacy Times says competitive compensation is an important first step.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.