Washington, D.C.—Although workplace conditions continue to be one of the primary complaints for pharmacists, harassment from customers continues to be an issue, according to the sixth installment of Pharmacy Workplace and Well-being Reporting (PWWR).

The latest trends and learnings report series was released by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA) for the second quarter of 2023.

The report noted that “recurring problems were across all practice settings, but the majority were from a reporter in chain pharmacy practice.” It added that 25 reports were received of verbal or emotional harassment from patients/customers and a similar number from pharmacy supervisors or coworkers; five said they were sexually harassed, including three from patients/customers and the remainder from supervisors.

In addition, 12 pharmacists said they faced threats of physical harm (some were even actual physical harm) from patients/customers, and 10 said that occurred with managers and coworkers. Another nine said those types of incidents were based on race, ethnicity, or gender, primarily involving coworkers or supervisors.

“Workplace conditions continue to be the primary reasons for negative experience submissions; however, the negative submissions of pharmacy staff dealing with bullying and harassment from patients/customers grew this cycle and to be concerning,” the authors of the report noted. They added that “while the number of those reporting harassment, threats, and discrimination is small, they have been present in each of the reporting cycles since the inception of PWWR. As in the past cycles, reporters continue to submit experiences indicating that harassment/threat situations stem from individuals in positions of authority (both the pharmacy proper and nonpharmacy).”

“It is critical that organizations review and update policies and training on the types of harassment and microaggression noted above,” according to the report. “In addition, training on how to deal with harassment from consumers continues to be needed. Training is also needed for pharmacy staff members on how to de-escalate or walk away from these situations when they occur. It is important that managers/supervisors (especially those not within the pharmacy proper) are trained in the importance of supporting the pharmacy staff that find themselves in these situations.”

One factor that exacerbates tense situations is problems with staffing, according to the PWWR.

In this cycle, 32% indicated that at the time of the negative experience the staffing was less than the normally scheduled level, 27% indicated that staffing was at the normally scheduled level, 5% indicated that staffing was at normally scheduled level but using float or per diem staff, 9% indicated that staffing was not a root cause, and 25% did not respond.

The report was launched in October 2021 to track pharmacy workplace experiences confidentially and anonymously. Since then, more than 1,400 reports have been submitted to PWWR from pharmacy supervisors to pharmacy support personnel in nearly every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

“The learnings from this cycle’s analysis provide a roadmap for pharmacy personnel, employers, and the profession at large to address patient/consumer harassment concerns and barriers to staff–management communication and to celebrate positive experiences in preventing medication errors and safety by design,” the authors advised.

“I am greatly encouraged by everyone who has continued to make use of the PWWR tool. It is critical that folks come forward and share their experiences. APhA continues our commitment in partnering to make improvements necessary to allow pharmacists to thrive in the workplace and provide optimal patient care,” stated Michael D. Hogue, PharmD, APhA executive VP and CEO.

In the April 2023 through June 2023 cycle, 85 reports were received. Among the positive experiences reported were a pharmacist who helped a patient understand how to use a new medical device and one who successfully navigated medication payment coverage for a patient moving from a jail to a rehabilitation facility.

As in the past, many of the negative experiences related to appropriate staffing, scheduling, unrealistic volume/workload expectations, and metrics.

“There is a continuing concern about the lack of open and honest channels of communication,” according to the report. “Of those who submitted negative experiences, 66% indicated that they offered recommendations to management. Of those who reported, 92% indicated that their recommendations were not considered or applied, causing them to feel ignored and unvalued.”

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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