Job burnout and stressful work environments are contributing to a growing shortage of pharmacists in the state. Pharmacies are experiencing staffing shortages leading some to shorten their operating hours or direct customers to other open locations. WFYI Reporter Terri Dee speaks with President-Elect of the Indiana Pharmacists Association, Dr. Veronica Vernon on their strategy to fill open positions and the workplace safety concern for pharmacists.
WFYI Reporter, Terri Dee: Pharmacies are the latest businesses undergoing staffing shortages. The pandemic is nearing two years in duration. Was there any way to anticipate the circumstances facing the pharmacy industry today?
Dr. Veronica Vernon, President-Elect, Indiana Pharmacists Association: That's a great question. I think there were signs pointing to this is going to be a concern, as we were experiencing a few staffing shortages prior to the pandemic. But the pandemic exacerbated that. Like with all of health care, pharmacists and technicians are feeling extreme burnout. They've been involved in not only processing and filling medications, working with patients to get better control of their health care throughout the pandemic doing deliveries, they've been doing COVID-19 testing as well as immunizations and adding that on to their workload.
Dee: Another winter season is coming soon. What is the strategy to ensure there are enough pharmacists to attend to the day-to-day responsibilities, possibly another COVID wave and the flu season? How will staffing needs be addressed?
Vernon: There are a lot of efforts going on right now to recruit pharmacists and technicians to fill these open spots. That's really of utmost important now is trying to get these positions filled. Because pharmacists and technicians want to be at full capacity with staffing, we want to feel like we're working in a safe environment. The one thing the public doesn't understand is that your pharmacist isn't just counting pills and putting them in a bottle. They have to go through drug interaction checks to make sure this medication doesn't interact with anything else you take. Also make sure that you're staying up to date on immunization. Not only are we doing COVID-19 vaccinations, but we're doing flu shots so that we're not running into a twindemic with COVID-19 and flu in addition to keeping everybody up to date on their other vaccinations. Children really fell off the radar during the pandemic (in terms of) parents staying up to date on their immunizations. Pharmacists, technicians, our interns or pharmacy students that work in pharmacies can give childhood vaccines in Indiana for those ages three and up during this public health emergency. One thing that I think is important to know is that you need to be patient with your pharmacy staff. I think when people are experiencing the burnout, and a lot of that has to do with working in the stressful environment and feeling like they have to get things done as quickly as possible, which is not really how we should be thinking about healthcare during the pandemic. So we've had some conversations with employers around the state on what they're doing to address this. The Indiana Pharmacists Association is taking this issue really seriously. We’re working with our stakeholders in the state in pharmacy to determine how we can initiate these conversations about workforce issues in pharmacies and provide support. We want to make sure that our pharmacists and technicians across the state feel safe in their work environment and are also experiencing some relief from the burnout.
Dee: It was great talking with you today.
Vernon: Thank you.
Contact WFYI All Things Considered newscaster and reporter Terri Dee at firstname.lastname@example.org.