Indicators providing COVID-19 vaccinations are seen outdoors of a CVS pharmacy in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Pictures
On high of verifying, filling and allotting prescriptions, pharmacists and support staff are liable for administering vaccines, fixing insurance issues, transferring prescriptions to different pharmacies and tending to dozens of sufferers in shops and over the cellphone, amongst different duties. These staff have stated they’re involved that firms like Walgreens and CVS are putting unreasonable calls for on them, with out offering sufficient staffing or assets to securely execute duties.
Annoyed by what they describe as rising workloads, understaffing and cuts to their hours, pharmacy employees from Walgreens areas across the nation and CVS shops within the Kansas City area have walked off the job in latest weeks — and a few staff are planning to walk out again from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1.
CNBC spoke to staff from each Walgreens and CVS, together with a pharmacist, two pharmacy technicians and a retailer supervisor, about what their typical workday appears to be like like. The staff, all of whom requested anonymity for concern of retaliation, described ending their shifts exhausted after spending hours juggling dozens of duties across the pharmacy with out sufficient further arms to help them.
CVS has greater than 30,000 pharmacists and 70,000 pharmacy technicians, whereas rival Walgreens has greater than 86,000 health-care service providers, together with pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and different health-related professionals. CVS pharmacists make $61.44 an hour on common, whereas Walgreens pharmacists make $53.85 per hour on common, in line with employment web site Certainly.
A spokesperson for Walgreens stated the corporate acknowledges the “unbelievable work our pharmacists and technicians do day-after-day” and has taken a number of steps in its pharmacies “to make sure that our groups can think about offering optimum affected person care.”
The corporate’s ongoing efforts are targeted on the way it can recruit, retain and reward pharmacy employees, the spokesperson stated. They added that Walgreens has improved expertise and centralized many operations to assist preserve acceptable workloads in pharmacies.
A spokesperson for CVS stated the corporate is dealing with “unprecedented demand and a scientific workforce scarcity within the well being care trade and [is] making focused investments in our retail pharmacy enterprise in direct response to suggestions from our pharmacy groups.”
These investments embody enabling groups to schedule further help as wanted, enhancing pharmacist and technician recruitment and hiring and strengthening pharmacy technician coaching, in line with the spokesperson. They stated these modifications will start in November and roll out all through subsequent 12 months.
This is what a typical day appears to be like like for some employees from the 2 chains, in line with the accounts associated to CNBC.
A Walgreens pharmacist stated their shifts vary anyplace from six to 12 hours on three to 5 days of the week. The pharmacist stated they sometimes arrive for work at 8 a.m., an hour earlier than the shift.
The pharmacist sometimes begins the shift by finishing a number of paperwork duties, which take about 5 to 10 minutes.
Then, the pharmacist checks which medicines are out of inventory. The pharmacist stated that activity is primarily the accountability of pharmacy technicians, however it usually falls to them as a result of their colleagues are stretched skinny with different duties.
The pharmacist additionally takes about 20 to half-hour to test which medicines weren’t delivered to the pharmacy by drug distributors, and calls sufferers to tell them about once they can count on their prescriptions to be prepared.
The pharmacist then spends 10 to fifteen minutes canceling vaccination appointments for photographs the pharmacy would not have in inventory, which entails calling sufferers and redirecting them to different retailer areas with vaccines accessible. The pharmacist stated Walgreens is permitting individuals to schedule appointments for any vaccine on-line, even when a retailer location would not have it in inventory.
The Walgreens spokesperson acknowledged that some pharmacy areas needed to reschedule appointments when vaccines first grew to become accessible this fall attributable to delays in provide, and added that the chain has apologized for any inconvenience induced to customers. Nevertheless, the spokesperson stated that each one areas had the required provide “inside a number of days.”
By 9:15 a.m., vaccine appointments start and proceed till 6:45 p.m., in line with the pharmacist. Their retailer normally takes one appointment each quarter-hour, and a few sufferers get as much as 4 vaccines at a time.
The pharmacist and a pharmacy technician then juggle administering photographs with a number of different duties. Giving jabs has turn out to be much more difficult in latest months as a result of arrival of latest vaccines in opposition to Covid and respiratory syncytial virus.
Among the many different duties is addressing the prickly issues associated to insurance coverage protection for prescriptions, the pharmacist stated. Their retailer receives 100 to 160 insurance coverage points of their system every day, so the pharmacist dedicates as much as three 30-minute to one-hour chunks of their shift to addressing them.
Each pharmacists and technicians additionally should are inclined to prospects in-store and over the cellphone. The pharmacist stated they get eight to 10 cellphone calls per hour on common, which might take as much as 10 to fifteen minutes every.
An indication advertises COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccine photographs at a Walgreens Pharmacy in Somerville, Massachusetts, August 14, 2023.
Brian Snyder | Reuters
All of these duties — together with different minor duties — are further to the pharmacist’s foremost job of verifying and allotting prescriptions.
The technician sometimes handles the primary a part of that activity, which entails processing new prescription orders from medical doctors.
The pharmacist stated they should test that each one prescription info entered into the system matches what the physician ordered for a affected person. Their retailer sometimes receives 300 prescriptions a day, so the pharmacist stated they evaluation round 25 an hour. A technician or the pharmacist then fills these prescriptions, and the pharmacist does a last evaluation to ensure the medicines within the bottles are right.
The pharmacist stated they’re usually interrupted when performing duties, given the urgency of different points. The disruptions can create a backlog of labor.
The pharmacist famous that the pharmacy closes for his or her scheduled lunch break from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., which they usually work via. By lunch, they usually have to handle new insurance coverage points or compensate for different work they could not get to whereas working instantly with sufferers.
Pharmacy technicians are medical professionals who work alongside pharmacists to assist and help sufferers.
One CVS pharmacy technician stated they sometimes come to their retailer location at 7:50 a.m., 10 minutes earlier than their eight-hour shift begins. The technician stated they sometimes work with one to 2 different technicians and one pharmacist throughout their shift, which they consider shouldn’t be sufficient to deal with the workload.
The technician stated they begin off their day by processing new prescription orders from medical doctors — a activity that they constantly do all through the day. The technician stated they should match every prescription to the affected person profile within the CVS system and enter all the proper info earlier than sending it to a pharmacist for evaluation.
The technician additionally takes care of one other a part of the method, which entails filling the prescriptions and printing labels earlier than the pharmacist evaluations it for a last time. They stated their retailer location’s prescription quantity is 600 to 1,000 per day.
The technician stated that as quickly as their retailer location opens, they and their co-workers should deal with dozens of affected person cellphone calls, and prospects ready to get their prescriptions or different necessities via the drive-thru.
Along with filling prescriptions and tending to sufferers, the technician stated they alternate performing a number of different duties all through the day. The duties embody administering vaccines and returning medicines that weren’t picked up by sufferers to pharmacy cabinets.
A CVS pharmacy stands in a Brooklyn neighborhood on February 08, 2023 in New York Metropolis.
Spencer Platt | Getty Pictures
A technician from Walgreens has related duties, however their shift is normally from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. That technician stated they really feel anxiousness every time they begin their shift as a result of there may be sometimes an inflow of sufferers coming to the shop who’re simply getting off of labor: “You are just about strolling proper into chaos.”
Sufferers usually find yourself ready for assist attributable to what the Walgreens technician known as understaffing at their location. They added that pissed off sufferers typically yell or snap at pharmacy employees, which may be “extraordinarily overwhelming.”
The Walgreens technician stated they sometimes keep longer after their shift to assist full necessary closing duties, equivalent to taking out the rubbish and disposing of delicate affected person info. After arriving residence, they stated they “fully crash” attributable to exhaustion.
Some staff who do not technically have duties within the pharmacy might find yourself serving to stressed-out pharmacists and technicians.
A CVS retailer supervisor stated that on three to 4 days of the week they work on the entrance of the shop from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. after which assist out at their location’s pharmacy till 9 p.m. The supervisor nonetheless has a pharmacy technician license, which permits them to carry out duties like administering vaccines.
The shop supervisor stated they’re a salaried worker, so they’re “basically working within the pharmacy free of charge” to offer their employees further help.
“In some form or kind, myself or my employees are being pushed into a facet of the enterprise that we did not join,” the shop supervisor stated. “We’re being pushed again there as a result of we do not have the assets.”