Profits Soar, But Pay Stays the Same: Chain Pharmacists Are Ready to Speak Up

Drug Topics JournalDrug Topics December 2021
Volume 165
Issue 12

Overwhelmed pharmacists are no longer scared of speaking up to managers.

Last month I discussed pizza and the hashtag floating around social media—#PizzaIsNot-Working—that reflects the ways in which management needs to address salaries to help retain pharmacy technicians.

I use social media infrequently-typically to read posts about pharmacy or my former student’s achievements and to keep up with extended family. I don’t have a Twitter account and am clueless about Snapchat. But if I did have a Twitter account, I’d start the hashtag to the effect of #PharmacistsAreNotScaredAnymore.

I am seeing a true revolution in this profession, especially in my observations of chain pharmacists. One year ago, my fellow pharmacists would refer to WalMart, Walgreens, and CVS as “Spark,” “Corner,” and “3-Letter,” respectively, to make it more difficult for regional managers to monitor derogatory comments. Now, however, pharmacists openly and blatantly criticize their managers, their staffing levels, and their salaries. Pharmacists are not scared anymore!

I am seeing pharmacists inundated with COVID-19 and flu shot administration with no increase in either help or salary, and these pharmacists are mad as hell and not taking it anymore. CVS reported significant profits  at the beginning of November thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, but only the shareholders are benefiting.

Meanwhile, the rank-and-file grunts seem to be left out…again. Every COVID-19 vaccine generates $40. Every COVID-19 and flu shot administered takes time away from dispensing, leaving the pharmacist and staying  further behind. Sorry big guys, but a 5-cent an hour raise doesn’t cut it.1

I am 63 years old and have achieved all that I ever hope to in this amazing profession. I have a wall full of awards and have had a satisfying career dispensing medications, educating my patients, teaching, and precepting nearly 70 pharmacy students. My advocacy is not self-serving, but my concern is for the future pharmacists in this profession.

Many pharmacy schools are accepting virtually any student just to fill seats in the classroom.We continually see smaller enrollments with students who are less than qualified. The average pharmacy school acceptance rate for 2017 through 2018 was 82.7%.2

During the 2003 through 2004 application cycle, the average acceptance rate was 34.1%.2 Compare that with the current acceptance rate for medical school, which was approximately 42% for 2017 through 2018.3

When I applied to the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 1977, we were told that we had a less than a 1 in 5 chance of getting in and that if our grade point average was less than 3.35—well, don’t waste the paper and stamp applying. Although the “legacy schools” still have robust qualifications for entrance, such is not the case at many other schools.

Today, at least half of student pharmacists apply for residencies to position themselves for a job that is not community-pharmacy related. Many of the students I interact with have not only a lack of interest in practicing community pharmacy, but also a real disdain for this area of practice.

It’s too bad, because there is not a health care professional anywhere who can have a more direct influence on patient care—if working conditions allow for it. The level of practice most community pharmacists wish to attain can only be attained through sufficient staffing, competent pharmacists, and salaries that are adequate.

Pharmacists should be doing patient care, not typing on computers, running cash registers, or counting pills. Any of those tasks can be easily accomplished by a technician. Pharmacists should be doing patient care. Instead, community pharmacists are leaving this profession in droves.

When I took my Boy Scout troop camping, I would tell them to leave the environment better than they found it. Such is not the case in this profession: Pharmacists have had enough and are letting the world know that pizza is not working and that pharmacists are not scared anymore.

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