Minneapolis, MN—The last year or so has been especially tough for pharmacists, and those stressors create concerns about more medication errors or near misses.

In initial findings from the 2022 National Pharmacy Workplace Survey, respondents reported the following issues, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic:

• More demanding patients/consumers that sometimes includes harassment and bullying
• Insufficient and poorly trained staff
• Employer focus on production results
• Interruptions or necessary calls to insurance companies
• Additional services offered with inadequate support.

The survey is sponsored by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA).

"Pharmacists and pharmacy personnel's workplace issues and their relationship to personal well-being continue to be a critical, complex issue across all practice settings; these have been further exacerbated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent decades, significant work has been done to identify and understand medication errors (including near misses) and characterize the root of their causes. But there was a need for critical examination of workplace factors to determine how, or if, they affected pharmacy personnel's well-being and patient safety," the associations wrote in a press release.

That led to the development of the national survey, which explores the practice environment, employee engagement and value, pharmacy personnel safety, staffing, and contributors to stress.

Survey authors, headed by University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy researchers, advised that of the 4,482 responses, most respondents were from the eastern part of the United States, followed by the Midwest and West. A range of different practice settings was represented, including chain pharmacies (46%), supermarket pharmacies (13%), and independent and hospital pharmacies (10%). Respondents fell into the following categories: staff/clinical pharmacists (50%), management/supervisors (30%), technicians/clerks (8%), or owners or interns/students (4%).

"The initial findings validate the many anecdotal stories heard through national and state pharmacy association members and pharmacy-specific social media," according to the report. "The responses to this survey indicate that work environment factors contribute to pharmacy personnel's difficulty in performing their clinical and non-clinical duties effectively."

Survey authors point out the lack of a mechanism by which pharmacists and pharmacy personnel can discuss workplace issues with supervisors and management. Too often, they note, discussion is not welcomed or heard, which can lead to stress and ultimately occupational burnout. In fact, more than 60% of respondents indicated that their employer does not actively seek their opinion or respect or value their input, according to the report. The authors also advise that 52% of respondents said they did not feel there were open channels of communication to discuss issues related to patient care and to provide suggestions for improvement.

"Support of pharmacy team members and pharmacies is needed—especially now as the pandemic continues—from employers, insurers, lawmakers, and the public to ensure adequate resource availability, address patient safety issues, and reduce stress and increase satisfaction of pharmacy personnel both now and in the future," said Scott Knoer, MS, PharmD, APhA executive vice president and CEO.

The associations also called for stronger response to the mistreatment of pharmacists and pharmacy staff. "Addressing pharmacy personnel harassment and bullying by patients/consumers is critical. Pharmacy personnel should not fear for their safety when providing patient care and serving their community's health care needs," emphasized Rebecca Snead, RPh, executive vice president and CEO of NASPA. "Organizations need to immediately review their policies and procedures dealing with these situations, articulate support of their team members, and provide guidance to and training for pharmacy personnel and non-pharmacy management."

The survey was administered through an online platform and data were de-identified data for analysis. To make sure respondents remain anonymous, all responses are held at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. Neither APhA nor NASPA were provided access to individual responses and only received aggregate result data.

A final report is expected this spring.

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.