A Shortage Of Pharmacy Technicians: They Need Us-But Where is The Change?
What are pharmacies and other businesses learning from this resignation period, and how can they do better?
“People leave managers, not companies”― Marcus Buckingham.
Buckingham’s quote is a long story short of the many reasons I left my pharmacy technician job. I am one of the 4.4 million+ people who quit their jobs in 2021.
Pharmacy technicians are leaving fast like a house of cards, leaving retail and mom-and-pop pharmacies struggling to hire.
Are pharmacies and other businesses learning from this great resignation period?
I don’t think so.
I often hear the cries in need of pharmacy technicians on the news, but the core issues are not being addressed. Instead, it sounds like lip service of sweet nothings to allure us or new people into the field. Technicians are the arms and legs of the pharmacy; without us, nothing gets done. We handle the phone calls, type e-prescriptions, count pills, call insurances and doctors, handle the registrar, and more. There is no plan to fix the root of the problem. The promises are all “talk” that isn’t cutting it anymore.
Why are we leaving?
- Burn out
Burnout is stress causing emotional, mental, or physical exhaustion. My colleagues and I constantly felt helpless, cynical, and emotionally and mentally drained. For five years, I previously worked in a 24 hour retail pharmacy.
Before the pandemic, we already had issues with short staff and couldn’t keep up with production demands and workload. In the pandemic of 2020–2021, workplace dynamics went from dysfunctional to much worse.
All of us, including myself, experience headaches, stomach issues, trouble sleeping, excessive fatigue, irritability, and more. We had a heavy workload and long hours. Some staff members worked 10+ hours a day. It didn’t matter if we prolonged our breaks, did double shifts, had 1 day off per week, and tried our best to help each other and our customers. Our efforts made no difference, and customers nor corporate did not appreciate us.
We often talked about feeling helpless and trapped. Every day felt like a bad day, from being short staff, customers threatening us, and being behind on filling prescriptions; I wouldn’t know where to start. I wanted to scream and constantly cry and experience multiple panic attacks a day.
We reported these issues long before the pandemic and during. Our head manager and corporate will tell us, “I heard you, things will change, you should improve your customer service, or it’s you-not the customer.”
It was to the point we would daydream and hope we would drop dead or be fired. I didn’t want to quit without having another job in place. My coworkers and I were applying to multiple jobs and struggled to find another one.
We were severely underpaid. On average, a technician would get paid $14/hour. I was getting paid $17/hour as a pharmacy inventory specialist. I had responsibilities as a technician and was in charge of ordering medication and more. My colleagues and I will get an insulting $0.25 raise in our yearly performance review no matter how great you did. The average pay should be $22/hour in NYC.
The pharmacy technicians are always risking themselves when they clock in. They risk their physical and mental health and their physical safety.
They can catch Covid-19, colds, experience burnout, and a decline in their mental health (e.g. depression, anxiety, etc.)
B. Physical safety
Other technicians, including myself, have been verbally and physically threatened by customers. The pharmacy I worked in had no panic button. We had one incident where a customer strangled our pharmacist because he had no refills. We have repeatedly experienced customers breaking in to steal Promethazine with codeine cough medicine. Our manager and district manager made us watch videos on how not to provoke criminals and stay safe.
There was also hate crime, too. During the pandemic, I witnessed many customers threaten and say racial slurs to our Asian American coworkers. It was disgusting and a hit in the gut. We often reported this to our managers and corporate, and in return, they made us take diversity and inclusion training. Those customers were never banned or removed from our store.
Ways management and corporate can help by:
- Provide and ensure their physical safety.
- Create career advancement opportunities.
- Show appreciation and recognition to your employees.
- Pay employees their worth, experience, and skillset.
- Make work-life balance NON-NEGOTIABLE.
- Update sick leave policies.
- Use tools to measure employee engagement levels and brainstorm ideas with them on how to improve if needed.
- Foster a culture of rewards and recognition.
- Allow mental health days.
- Create mental health and wellness benefits.
So, Department of Labor, Management, and Corporate, what are you doing to ensure we stay?