Washington, D.C.—Pharmacists and other pharmacy staff continue to face verbal, emotional, and/or sexual harassment; threatened or actual physical harm; and microaggressions, according to the most recent Pharmacy Workplace and Well-Being Reporting (PWWR).

In this year's third installment of PWWR trends, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA), which sponsor the effort, also noted that work-related mental health problems were described in explicit detail. The groups suggested those issues might be more common than have been reported.

PWWR was launched in October 2021 and allows for the submission of both positive and negative pharmacy workplace experiences confidentially and anonymously. The sponsors reported that the PWWR has received more than 1,100 submissions from pharmacy supervisors to pharmacy support personnel in nearly every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

"Workplace issues across pharmacy practice and their relationship to personal well-being and patient safety continue to be a critical, complex issue," explained Ilisa Bernstein, PharmD, JD, APhA interim executive VP and CEO. "The over 1,100 de-identified reports submitted since last year's launch of PWWR tell a collective, powerful story that we hope will spark change and improvement in the pharmacy workplace not only right now, but in the future of pharmacy practice. We are concerned to see that the most recent reporting cycle confirms observed trends of pharmacy staff encountering threats and harassment from patients/consumers and work colleagues."

While harassment was reported, most of the negative comments were about working conditions, such as breaks, ergonomics, lighting, too few computer terminals, too many phone lines for staff available, staffing and scheduling, and volume/workload expectations. Many of those have been exacerbated by staff shortages and increased workload related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the latest cycle from mid-January 2022 through mid-August 2022, PWWR received 173 reports. Among the positive experiences reported were:

• Changes in pharmacy hours to enhance work-life balance
• Being able to review patient charts to determine the best medication therapy
• A workflow system that enhances patient safety and increases efficiency for a supportive pharmacy manager.

Those experiences were described as having a long-term positive effect on well-being.

Negative experiences also were observed in the first two released reports. "PWWR is a protected space that gives voice and amplification to pharmacy personnel's concerns and offers suggested solutions while mitigating the fear of reporting. The disturbing trend of workplace harassment from patients, consumers, and coworkers is a call to action for the profession to take the necessary steps to address these real concerns," stated Rebecca Snead, RPh, NASPA executive VP and CEO.

A key issue is that pharmacy staffs reported difficulty in getting issues resolved because of the lack of communication with higher-ups. Most of those submitting negative experiences (68%) reported that they had made recommendations to management; however, in nearly all cases, their recommendations were not considered or applied, causing them to feel ignored and unvalued. In addition, 32% said they did not offer recommendations because:

• They fear retaliation or being labeled a complainer
• They recognize there is little a middle manager can do
• They believe that nothing will happen if their recommendations are reported.

The Alliance for Patient Medication Safety, a federally recognized patient safety organization, analyzed the reports submitted to PWWR. The reports are protected by the confidentiality and privilege provisions of the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005. Actual submission reports to PWWR cannot be disclosed or subpoenaed, and they are not subject to discovery in a legal proceeding.

PWWR is an online confidential and anonymous service for pharmacy personnel to report positive and negative experiences across all pharmacy practices. Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and student pharmacists are encouraged to submit positive and negative experience reports anytime they want. In-depth analysis reports with trends and learnings will be periodically issued, with a short snapshot of submissions to be issued each month, according to the sponsors.

To submit an experience and read the full PWWR Reports, pharmacy personnel can visit the APhA website.

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.