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Overworked and Understaffed Pharmacists Place Patients at Risk

Limited resources and more demands are pushing pharmacists to the brink, according to a new investigative report by NBC News. Pharmacists worry that they will make a fatal error because the public and their employers expect them to handle an unrealistic workload. Reporters spoke with 31 retail pharmacists and pharmacy technicians across 15 states, and the findings are troubling. 

How Pharmacists Are Overworked

Some pharmacists are responsible for the safety and accuracy of thousands of prescriptions every week. Many overworked pharmacists now work at chain drugstores across the nation, where they are expected to work faster and juggle more tasks than when they worked for stand-alone pharmacies in the past.

Additionally, many chain drugstores monitor each minute of a pharmacist’s day and assign them a number of metrics designed to do everything more efficiently. Some pharmacists compared their job to a fast food restaurant instead of an important healthcare position in which they counsel patients on their medical needs and concerns. More than two-thirds of pharmacists said their workload had risen within the past year in a recent National Pharmacist Workforce Study. 91 percent of retail chain pharmacists who were surveyed rated their workloads as “high” or “excessively high.” 

Stressors Felt Across the Industry

Pharmacists reported the many stressors they feel on the job, including:

  • Less help – An economic downturn has resulted in higher unemployment rates and fewer workers who can help pharmacists.
  • Less time – The demands on the medical field often mean that pharmacists have less time to devote to each patient’s order. Some pharmacists report not having enough time to go to the bathroom or eat during the day. Less time also means less opportunity to explain important details about the medications patients receive.
  • More stress – Some pharmacists reported crying in their cars after work or lying awake at night worried about the prescription errors they may have made.
  • Lower pay – Studies show that wages for pharmacists have remained stagnant or fell compared to five years ago.
  • Limited resources – In the drive for low-cost medication and services, pharmacists are often expected to do more with fewer resources. Declining profit margins for pharmacies, corporate consolidation, and an increase in recent pharmacy school graduates have caused salaries to fall across the industry and fewer employment options.

The more overworked and understaffed pharmacists are, the more likely they are to make pharmacy errors, such as:

  • Miscounting the number of pills in a bottle
  • Missing a dangerous drug interaction
  • Providing the wrong medication
  • Providing the wrong dosage
  • Mixing up patient orders 

COVID-19 and Pharmacy Workload

With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in pharmacies across the country, the pressure on pharmacists is even stronger. Pharmacists may be simultaneously manning front counters, drive-throughs, and vaccination stations. They may also be fielding calls from people about the vaccine or complications arising from COVID-19.

The already problematic situation of understaffing has widened with the pandemic. Workers are now expected to conduct COVID-19 testing, administer vaccines, and deep clean surfaces. This added burden can increase the likelihood of prescription medical malpractice. 

Contact Us for Help with Your Prescription Medical Malpractice Claim

Errors in pharmacies can cause catastrophic injuries or even death. If you believe you or your loved one was injured because of the negligence of a pharmacist or medication errors, Salvi Schostok & Pritchard can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Patrick A. Salvi

Patrick A. Salvi concentrates his legal practice in several limited areas primarily involving a trial practice in cases concerning serious personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and mass torts. Mr. Salvi has achieved record-breaking jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients, including serving as lead counsel in obtaining an Illinois record-high $148 million jury verdict and a Lake County record $33 million jury verdict.

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