Discover more from Wonkette
Pharmageddon: The Pharmacists Are Walking Out Again!
Damn, it's a laborpalooza.
Pharmacists at CVS and Walgreens stores around the country are walking out again this week for three days, as the chains have still yet to make the entirely reasonable changes they have demanded. Changes not just for themselves, but for our safety.
Because they’re pharmacists, and they dispense our prescriptions, they are often in charge of determining whether the prescriptions we are on could have bad interactions, so them being overtired, overworked and understaffed is a problem for us all.
The walkout started yesterday and will continue today and tomorrow — so maybe wait until Thursday to fill your scripts if you can.
The biggest area of contention is understaffing, along with quotas and walk-in vaccine appointments that make it impossible for pharmacists to get their regular work done. Understaffing means they have to work ridiculously long days (as much as 14 hours), often can’t take lunch breaks, and can’t call in sick. On top of that, their supervisors expect them to do the work of a fully staffed pharmacy, regardless of the number of people working there.
Loving this post? Not a free or paid subscriber yet? Let’s fix that!
“For far too long, employers have made the situation worse than it needed to be. Supervisors who are not pharmacists do not understand the needs of care teams and make unreasonable demands on time-based productivity,” American Pharmacy Association (APhA) CEO Michael Hogue said in a statement this week. “Quotas on the number of prescriptions filled per hour or vaccines administered per day, or even time to answer the phone, simply fail to recognize that the pharmacist–patient relationship is not transactional. It is a special covenant—and supervisors who distill everything down to numbers and time metrics are destroying that relationship in the name of profitability. This must stop immediately. Employers should ensure supervisors clearly understand the covenantal pharmacist–patient relationship and that systems support this relationship fully. I again call on all employers to act swiftly on these issues that your pharmacy staff has made clear that they will no longer tolerate.”
Harassment from patients — often from patients angry they can’t get the service they want because pharmacies are understaffed — has also contributed to burnout. Patients are mad they can’t get their vaccine right away or that they are dispensing vaccines in the first place or that they have run out of Wegovy or Adderall or other drugs for which there is currently a shortage. While there isn’t much the retail chains can do about this, it’s a whole lot harder to deal with when pharmacies are understaffed.
This is also a major issue when an increasing number of Americans are looking to pharmacists for their basic healthcare needs — over half of working-age Americans, including those with health insurance, say they often can’t afford healthcare.
A study published earlier this year found that “58% of Americans are likely to visit a local pharmacy as a first step when faced with a non-emergency medical issue,” while “81% say they trust a pharmacist, nurse, or nurse practitioner to diagnose minor illnesses and prescribe medications to treat them.”
While a big part of the pharmacist shortage is simply due to burnout, it’s worth noting that it is pretty freaking expensive to become a pharmacist in the first place. Most students complete a bachelor’s program before enrolling in pharmacy school, which is not cheap. There are a total of four programs in the entire country that cost under $10,000 a year for public, in-state tuition. The rest mostly cost around $30-50K per year. Last year, 44 percent of health workers said they were going to be looking for new jobs in new fields, and it seems like if we’re going to run these people ragged, we should be aware that we’re gonna need some backups.
As stupid as I believe it is that we do not have fully subsidized public college tuition, it is grossly irresponsible and ridiculous that we charge people at all to go into the healthcare fields that are necessary to our basic survival. Do we have a death wish of some kind? Why do we do this to ourselves? If anything, we should be paying them.
Everything has consequences. Walgreens and CVS may feel like they are saving money with these skeleton crews, but it’s not sustainable. If you overwork people like that, they are going to quit or they are going to make mistakes and when it comes to healthcare workers, and that’s a bad thing for all of us. This includes rich people, who as far as I know, have to use the same pharmacists as the rest of us.
If you’d like to help your local pharmacists, aside from just not going to Walgreens or CVS during these days, there is a GoFundMe. Originally started to support union efforts, it is now being used to provide emergency relief to pharmacists during these walkouts.