Pharmacy Staffing Shortages Lead to Disruptions in Patient Care


A 2022 survey conducted by the National Community Pharmacists Association reported that more than 70% of pharmacies were struggling to fill staff positions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses started to experience labor issues due to an increased number of workers wanting to work from home, and pharmacies were no exception.

Things haven’t changed much since then, as people have grown accustomed to this new way of working. This has made finding qualified people to work in a pharmacy difficult. After all, working at a pharmacy requires in-person work for practically every component of the job.

Plus, growing workloads and resulting stresses on pharmacists have led to well-documented burnout and subsequent staffing shortages.

“Workplace conditions have pushed many pharmacists and pharmacy teams to the brink of despair,” the board of trustees of the American Pharmacists Association said in December 2021. “Pharmacy burnout is a significant patient safety issue. It is impacting patients today with delayed prescription fulfillment, unacceptable waits for vaccines and testing, and potential errors due to high volume, long hours and pressure to meet performance metrics.”

A 2022 survey conducted by the National Community Pharmacists Association reported that more than 70% of pharmacies were struggling to fill staff positions. As a result, some pharmacies have had to adjust hours of operation.

“The discussion around staffing issues in pharmacies gained significant attention during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020,” said Sahily Paoline, PharmD, chief clinical officer at Xevant. “COVID-19 brought about unique challenges for pharmacies, including increased demand for medications, vaccine distribution efforts, and the need for additional safety protocols.”

These challenges, coupled with disruptions in supply chains and changes in workforce dynamics due to health concerns and lockdown measures, were all contributing factors to staffing shortages becoming more prominent.

Moreover, thousands of pharmacists who responded to a 2022 survey reported not having enough time to perform their work activities.

“Stressful workloads have contributed to higher reported levels of burnout from pharmacists in 2022 compared to 2019 pre-pandemic statistics,” Paoline said. “Pharmacists agree that staffing shortages (including pharmacy technicians) lead to longer wait times for patients’ prescriptions to be filled.”

Some pharmacies are leveraging technology to fill the gap as they explore automated robots to fill prescriptions. In the meantime, these shortages certainly have the potential to impact patient health negatively due to increased delays and mistakes.

The health care industry is facing an exodus of employees in support roles. A recent study, titled “Allied Health Workforce Retention,” commissioned by Ultimate Medical Academy, revealed it’s the entire healthcare landscape that’s experiencing issues.

The results showed that 60% of all healthcare support workers expect to leave their job in the next 5 years and among those who have considered leaving, approximately 45% have looked for a new job in the past 6 to 12 months, and another 21% are looking for a new job now.

What’s more, 15% do not expect to work in their current position for more than a year and 39% are considering leaving their current position for a different industry altogether.

That means that pharmacies need to do what they can to attract and retain staff. At Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Marley Drug, owner Christopher Holler, PharmD, has seen other pharmacies face staffing issues, so he pays his pharmacists “quite well,” knowing that the market is competitive. That has kept his workers loyal.

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