Last week I spent a few days in Kansas City meeting with pharmacists, some of whom were part of the walk-out that has been reported in the media.
I wanted to write today to share some reflections on my visit and what APhA is doing to be part of the solution.
It was evident that the pharmacists I met genuinely love community pharmacy practice. They get a lot out of their connection to their community and the opportunity to care for neighbors. It was also clear that the pharmacy closings that happened were a last resort, one taken only after much contemplation, and one arrived at with a lot of emotion. I respect every one of those pharmacists for making the decisions they felt they needed to make to fulfill their calling of safely caring for patients.
While wellbeing issues are widespread in the community, there are pharmacists working in pharmacies that are better staffed and where an environment is fostered for optimal patient care. I met with these pharmacists, too. When there are positives that are happening, they deserve to be highlighted so they can be emulated as best practices.
Whatever the feelings involved—everyone’s experience is real and valid. Those working in positive environments know they have many colleagues suffering from extreme staffing shortages, little or no pharmacist overlap or with poorly trained technical staff and unpredictable access to technician coverage hours. Those pharmacists have expressed to me a deep concern for the issues confronting their pharmacy colleagues and are strongly supportive of national initiatives to provide long-term solutions.
Pharmacists are worried about each other, too. Many pharmacists are not okay.
My team and I heard countless stories of pharmacists experiencing severe anxiety and depression. We heard stories of stress-induced illness, surgeries, and the exacerbation of pre-existing conditions. The stories are heartbreaking, and this crisis must be addressed. People need to know they are being heard and change is happening; corporations have a moral obligation to act with both short- and long-term solutions.
If you find yourself or one of your team members in a crisis, call or text 988, the national suicide and crisis lifeline which is available 24 hours a day.
APhA has engaged in an ongoing dialogue with national employers, sharing our observations and raising awareness of the Pharmacist’s Fundamental Responsibilities and Rights. I encourage everyone to read these nationally-endorsed rights—it is a very clear statement on the expectations of employers to support the work of their pharmacists. APhA is fighting for every principle articulated in that document.
APhA is calling on employers to act swiftly. The time for promises has come and gone, and action is the only acceptable course. This may mean:
- Reducing pharmacy hours
- Consolidating pharmacy locations
- Increasing the use of remote fill technology
- Increasing the adoption of centralized telephone answering to reduce distractions
- Reducing utilization of drive-through services during staffing shortages
- Eliminating volume-based performance metrics
Most importantly, APhA believes health-systems and specialty pharmacies, community pharmacies, and others must increase pharmacy technician wages and provide consistency in work schedules so that pharmacy technicians find this occupation as a career path rather than as a stepping stone to another job.
I believe that, as CEO, I have a duty to listen first. Some have said they have felt, in the past, as if APhA has done more talking than listening. I agree and take responsibility for that. To that end, and to provide an opportunity to have a conversation, APhA will host a virtual townhall meeting on Friday, October 20, 2023, at 7 p.m. ET which will provide you an opportunity to submit questions which I will answer live. You will be able to watch the live stream on YouTube by using the link here, and you can submit questions here. I am very excited for the opportunity to talk with you in detail then, and I hope this conversation will be just the first of many.
For every pharmacist. For all of pharmacy.
My very best,