WASHINGTON, DC—The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA) have released the final report of the 2021 National State-based Pharmacy Workplace Survey.
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 issues were further exacerbated by 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. Likewise, there is a need for critical examination of workplace factors to determine how, or if, workplace issues affected pharmacy personnel’s well-being and patient safety. In response, APhA and NASPA developed a national survey to address this critical gap. The confidential survey explores the practice environment, employee engagement and value, pharmacy personnel safety, staffing, and contributors to stress.
Findings and conclusion
The 6,973 respondents represent 17 different practice settings, including chain community pharmacies (48%), supermarket pharmacies (13%), independent and hospital pharmacies (10%), and hospital/institutional pharmacies (9%). Most respondents were either staff/clinical pharmacists (50%), management/supervisors (29%), certified pharmacy technicians (7%), or owners or student pharmacists (4%). Survey responses were received from every region of the country.
The findings validate the many anecdotal stories heard through national and state pharmacy association members and pharmacy-specific social media. The findings show that pharmacy workplaces were so stressful in 2021 that personnel were unable to fulfill both clinical and nonclinical duties which contributed to employee burnout. While the majority of pharmacy workplaces have cultures of patient safety, pharmacy personnel are at a breaking point when adjustments to team training, roles, and responsibilities are not made quickly enough to adapt to change and meet all of their responsibilities.
The stress and workplace conditions explored in the survey findings have a negative impact within the profession on the ability to recruit, train, and retain pharmacy personnel.
The findings suggest there are opportunities to address the identified issues in an expedient manner. These would include enhanced communication channels with pharmacy personnel and revised policies to support pharmacists and pharmacy personnel who encounter patients/customers perceived to be threatening or harassing when pharmacists utilize professional judgment in addressing clinical and workflow issues at hand.
“One specific finding is troublesome—pharmacy personnel harassment and bullying by patients/consumers. It needs to be addressed by employers immediately. Pharmacy personnel should not fear for their safety when providing patient care and serving their community’s health care needs,” said Joni Cover, JD, NASPA vice president, strategic initiatives and acting CEO. “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 report findings showed that employers need support, too.
“Support of pharmacy team members and pharmacies is needed from employers, insurers, lawmakers, and the public to ensure resource availability, address patient safety concerns, meet patient health care needs and expectations, and reduce stress and increase satisfaction of pharmacy personnel both now and in the future,” said Scott Knoer, MS, PharmD, FASHP, APhA executive vice president and CEO. “Many of the recommendations from the survey findings have been proposed for years but the urgency of the current situation should push them into reality. Concrete solutions and action are needed.”
Confidentiality, survey limitations, and ongoing analysis
The survey was administered through an online platform designed for receiving deidentified data for analysis. To protect the respondents' anonymity, all responses are held at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, and APhA and NASPA were not provided access to individual responses and only received aggregate result data.
The study did not use a random sample of individuals but was promoted nationally by APhA and locally by state pharmacy associations. The total number of individuals contacted is unknown; therefore, a response rate cannot be calculated. The findings should be used to gain insight and not be used to make estimates or generalizations regarding the entire population of pharmacists and personnel.
Subsequent to this report, the development of manuscripts on the survey data, along with a reflexive thematic analysis on open-ended responses to learn more from the voice of the respondents, is underway to contribute to the peer-reviewed pharmacy literature and pharmacy team discussions.
APhA is the only organization advancing the entire pharmacy profession. Our expert staff and strong volunteer leadership, including many experienced pharmacists, allow us to deliver vital leadership to help pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians find success and satisfaction in their work and advocate for changes that benefit them, their patients, and their communities. For more information, please visit www.pharmacist.com.
NASPA, founded in 1927 as the National Council of State Pharmacy Association Executives, is dedicated to enhancing the success of state pharmacy associations in their efforts to advance the profession of pharmacy. NASPA’s membership is comprised of state pharmacy associations and over 70 other stakeholder organizations. NASPA promotes leadership, sharing, learning, and policy exchange among its members and pharmacy leaders nationwide. For more information, please visit www.naspa.us.