Pharmacy Technician Shortage Causes Problems for Customers

Pharmacist Filling Prescription of Pills
Pharmacy technician sorting pills. | Image from stevecoleimages

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many pharmacy technicians are reportedly at their wit’s end due to being overworked and underpaid, per NBC News.

One former pharmacy technician, Heidi Strehl, worked at a Rite Aid for sixteen years in the Pittsburgh area. After building a relationship with customers and her co-workers, Strehl decided to quit her job this fall.

Many of them are asked to do tasks of a pharmacist’s duties while still receiving low wages. They are filling and checking prescriptions, and some are even administering vaccinations. According to Strehl, working in the pharmacy was always a fast-paced environment, but stress increased while staffing and the pay did not.

COVID-19 caused a surge in traffic to pharmacies, especially those providing the vaccine. She stated that her store repeatedly got behind on prescriptions, and numerous scripts were left to be filled the following day.

“It got to the point that it was just such an unsafe working environment, where you are being pulled a thousand different directions at any given time. You’re far more likely to make a mistake and far less likely to catch it,” Strehl said.

The last straw for her came in October. Strehl said she got an “insulting” 25-cent raise, bringing her to $15.08 an hour. Then, she suffered a panic attack a couple of days later when a customer yelled at her due to a delayed prescription. Strehl grabbed her belongings and said her goodbyes to her co-workers.

Thinking about the future she will no longer have at the pharmacy, she said, “I always thought I would retire from that place. But all of the parts of my job that I truly enjoyed over the years had slowly just gone away.”

Several other technicians are following in her path.

Among the 42,000 pharmacy technicians in the United States, a great deal of them have quit because they are asked to perform a lot of tasks but are not compensated. The average technician makes $16.87 an hour.

Main drug stores like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens are having a hard time replacing the workers. The shortage is reportedly causing the remaining workers to become overworked and resulting in more prescription delays and errors.

Some pharmacies have shortened their hours because of a lack of staff.

Al Carter, the executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, said, “Over the last five to six months, we’ve seen a spike in these conditions. In some states, you have 60 or 70 pharmacies that are closing for days on end because they don’t have the appropriate staff.”

The American Pharmacists Association chief executive, Scott Knoer, stated, “We have to pay pharmacy technicians more. It’s a rewarding job, but it’s not an easy job. So it’s not shocking that we have a shortage.”

Knoer previously examined turnover rates for hospital workers and found that pharmacy technicians had a much higher turnover rate than radiologic and nuclear medicine technologists. Also, they made half of their salaries.

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