NPTA Survey: Pharmacy Technicians Feel Unprotected from COVID-19

April 21, 2020

“The reality is that pharmacy workers are smack dab in the middle of trauma.”

The majority of pharmacy technicians working in chain/mass/grocery-based retail settings feel “unsafe, unprotected, uninformed, and ill-equipped” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to survey results released by the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA).1

The survey compared the workplace conditions and opinions of pharmacy technicians in the United States working in various practice settings.1

Chain drugstores, mass-retail and grocery-store pharmacies showed particularly shocking disapproval numbers from pharmacy technicians. Overall, a mere 26.1% of pharmacy technicians working in chain/mass/grocery-based retail pharmacies felt safe at work, compared with  63.8% of independent pharmacy workers and 52.8% of hospital pharmacy workers.1,2

Additionally, 74.88% of retail chain, mass, and grocery technician respondents said that their pharmacy had not taken actions to minimize direct contact with patients; 90.34% of the same pharmacy technicians reported to NPTA that their workplace had not limited the number of employees interacting with each other, either. Furthermore, 76.09% of chain, mass, and grocery store pharmacy technicians reported that their workplace was not supplying their staff with face masks.2

Only 3.58% of chain/mass/grocery retail pharmacies had implemented temperature-taking before workers began their shift, whereas workers in other pharmacy types reported an average of 33.73%.2

Some of the more promising findings included that the large majority of all types of pharmacies supplied their technicians with both alcohol-based solution and disinfectant spray or wipes, and high numbers of staff across the board are being supplied with gloves, though chain/mass/grocery retail pharmacies still fared the worst when compared to other pharmacy spaces.2

Mike Johnston, CPhT, chief executive officer of NPTA, was surprised by the findings of the survey: “There certainly have been some improvement made within the industry since [the survey’s publication], but the data was much more alarming than we were even anticipating,” Johnston said in an interview with Drug Topics®.

“These employers have a responsibility to take care of the pharmacists and technicians that they employ who are working on the front line. They’re essential workers, but there’s certainly safeguards that can be put in place. I personally do not understand why any pharmacy that has drive-through capabilities is still opening their pharmacy for walk up business…there’s certainly a lot more that could be done.”

Johnston also expressed concerns about the mental health effects that the pandemic could bring if pharmacies don’t implement serious precautions to protect their technicians.

“I think something that we really need to pay attention to is the anxiety and the worry and the fear that pharmacists and technicians are experiencing,” Johnston told Drug Topics®.

“The reality is that pharmacy workers are smack dab in the middle of trauma. When we do get over the hump and on the other side of this, I think it’s going to be critical that we really look at the mental health of health care workers, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Data suggests that there’s going to be significant increases in depression and post-traumatic stress disorders. And when the data is showing that the pharmacy staff have not felt safe, that they haven’t felt like their employers were doing everything in their capacity to protect them, it’s just going to exacerbate the mental health issues.”

You can access the NPTA’s survey here.2

References:

1. Study Shows Majority of Pharmacy Technicians Feel Unsafe at Work Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, and Likely for Good Reason. News Release. NPTA; April 3, 2020. Accessed April 20, 2020. http://www.pharmacytechnician.org/en/art/2170/.
2. COVID-19: A Survey for Pharmacy Technicians. NCPA; April 3, 2020. Accessed April 20, 2020. https://www.dropbox.com/s/fxh7m5rh979vvbu/COVID19_NPTA_PHARMACY_DATA.pdf?dl=0.