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Published on Monday, October 30, 2023

CEO Statement on Walkouts

APhA stands with every pharmacist who participated in the walkout today. The bottom line is that we support every pharmacist’s right to work in an environment with staffing that supports your ability to provide patient care. We know that these are steps you deem necessary in order to be heard by your employer.

For years, you have dealt with workplace issues, leading to frustrations and burnout, affecting your mental health and well-being. I have traveled regularly since my tenure as APhA’s CEO began last summer, and I have seen the burnout and frustration firsthand. While today Walgreens and CVS pharmacies are the focus of attention, I’ve also seen and heard clearly that corporate chain pharmacies are not the only place where pharmacists are being asked to work without adequate staff. I’ve heard from pharmacists in hospital outpatient pharmacies, federal facilities, and mail facilities about the same burnout from inadequate staffing. Inadequate staffing is unacceptable in any setting. In many ways, the recent headline of a USA Today story is true, our pharmacy system is broken.

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. 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. The profession and industry need long-term solutions, and we need immediate action.

I’m also calling on CVS/Caremark, Express Scripts, Optum and all other PBM companies to immediately cease the assessment of DIR fees on retail prescriptions and ensure your contracts result in payment to pharmacies of at least their cost for the medicine they are providing plus a reasonable fee for doing so. You are breaking the backs of community pharmacies and are ultimately complicit in the workplace issues I am describing. Your corporate policies are unfair, restrict trade, and are causing the closure of hundreds of pharmacies across America. You are worsening health disparities and creating a new public health emergency. Soon there will be no pharmacies (chain or independent) in most communities to administer vaccines or provide testing for infectious disease.

APhA shared the learnings from first-person experiences of pharmacists and pharmacy personnel from the Pharmacy Workplace and Well-being Reporting (PWWR) tool with chain community pharmacy employers. The quarterly learnings from real-life pharmacy experiences paint a grim picture of workplace conditions, which is unfortunately nothing new. As documented in the just released 2023 third quarter report, submissions indicated that workplace conditions continue to be the primary reason for negative experiences, and that inadequate staffing (which leads to increased workload and puts patient safety at risk) and metrics are the two leading causes of pharmacist burnout.

Furthermore, CDC has released the results of a recent survey which shows that incidents of harassment from patients toward health care workers have more than doubled from 2018 to 2022. It also tells us that 46% of health care workers reported feeling burned out, up from 32% in 2018. A total of 44% of health care workers—in that same survey—said they would be looking for a new job, up from 33% in 2018. These numbers are stark and if we don’t get serious about addressing the root causes of these problems, things will only get worse.

APhA will continue to advocate for all pharmacists and for substantive change in pharmacists’ workplace and well-being issues. For every pharmacist. For all of pharmacy.

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