Would shorter pharmacist shifts reduce Rx errors?

October 28, 2016

One state's pharmacy board is debating that issue.

Rules being considered by the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy reflect a quandary facing pharmacists across the United States: How many hours should pharmacists be required to work?

The MBP has proposed that pharmacists not work more than 12 continuous hours a day-and and be provided a 30-minute break if they work more than six hours straight.

Courtesy/Shutterstock“Basically, there have been studies done in related professions that have showed the likelihood of errors goes up in high-pressure intense working conditions of healthcare, and we think that’s exactly what’s happening in pharmacies these days,” said Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, told the Mankato Free Press.

A spokesperson for the National Association of Community Pharmacists (NCPA) said the decision on how many hours a pharmacist should work should be left up to owners. “For example, what is required in a pharmacy that just opened and has limited staff, might be entirely different than what would be the case in a pharmacy that has been around for decades,” John Norton, NCPA’s director of public relations told Drug Topics.

The issue of how many hours pharmacists and pharmacy techs are required to work has long been a contentious issue in the profession. Even the most competent pharmacists can make script errors due to severe understaffing, inadequate number of competent techs, 12-hour shifts, and no meal breaks, Dennis Miller, RPh, wrote in this Drug Topicsarticle.

CVS paid $7.4 million last year to more than 1,600 pharmacists throughout California who claimed the retail giant forced employees to work seven days in a row without paying overtime. A California pharmacist also filed a class-action lawsuit against Walmart last year, accusing the retailer of cheating pharmacists out of work breaks and overtime pay.

 

In Minnesota, CVS Health said it “strongly believes that a pharmacist should continue to manage their own work schedule and not rely on a Board rule to dictate work conditions,” a representative from the chain wrote. Other chains submitted similar statements opposing the Board setting a limit on the number of hours worked.

Small, independent pharmacists are also worried about the proposed rules, saying they could lose business. Typically, there is only on pharmacist on staff at small locations and the pharmacy would have to close when a pharmacist is not there, according to state rules.

However, a Hy-Vee Pharmacy Manager, Brian Cornelius, said he partially supports the proposal for his fellow pharmacists, even though he typically works a nine-hour day that includes a break. However, “I could also see it could be an inconvenience for patients if the pharmacy has to close,” he told Mankato Free Press.