It is rare that pharmacists get a platform to discuss frustrations or concerns about the “quantity over quality”, volume-driven job market present today. This week there has been an onslaught of breaking news regarding the intense work environment of pharmacists employed by the top three corporations and the unacceptable consequences that trickle down to patients everyday. In the chain setting, the threshold allowing two pharmacists on duty for a shift is so high that a single pharmacist could fill over 500 prescriptions (that is over 1 per minute) per shift and still be the only professional on duty. With over 10,000 pharmacists graduating every year into a job market that is completely saturated, finding positions in any mode of their profession is extremely difficult. Year after year the amount of jobs available to these young graduates decreases on a national level and competition rises. The average pharmacist graduates from their doctorate program with over $120,000 in student loan debt. The $1400 monthly payment on this debt incentivizes new pharmacists to quickly obtain any job the market provides. Once in the door, of what is usually a large corporation, they must do everything possible to keep their position- after all the line behind their job will only continue to grow. With every large pharmacy chain having so many applicants and so little jobs, how could a pharmacist go against the grain and stand up for the quality of care they want to provide? Sure there are “anonymous” surveys for improved working conditions, but when you have to attach your store number and position to the form in order to submit, you really can’t hide from anyone. The link between the ability for our nation’s top three pharmacies to squeeze more and more out of a single pharmacist to the amount of prescription errors or care oversights is obvious and catastrophic. You may have read the concerning NY Times article released a few days ago or some of the spinoff media resulting from that piece. Since the topic is finally getting some press, this week we would like to discuss how our past position of managing corporate pharmacies influenced our different standard of care at Front Range.
In a market where providers are getting less and less reimbursement while insurers and administrators rack up our healthcare dollars, investing to create proportionally staffed pharmacies is a priority chain pharmacies struggle to address. Solutions to combat pharmacist fatigue or distress in these corporate settings often come in the form of mandatory lunch breaks, where the pharmacy closes for 30 minutes and the work piles up for even more chaotic processing upon return. Sometimes management will send floor personnel to cashier in the pharmacy, but they do not have the extensive training of a technician and often create more work that only pharmacy staff can repair. Increasing technician hours simply never occurs proportional to the increase in task volumes – and if it did, there would be even more supervision required by the still lone pharmacist. Obviously these mediocre efforts are the result of greed in the pharmacy business model, and further enforces the way these businesses change: being reactive vs proactive. During our time with our former employer, the reaction of upper management to cut expenses instead of relying on quality service to increase revenues was discouraging and an inappropriate stance to take in our changing healthcare landscape. We could not accept that Front Range Pharmacy must follow course to be successful. We will serve our community by putting your health first instead of padding profits.
The amount of money that each and every chain pharmacy spends on corporate oversight and supervisor positions is astronomical. Our independently owned pharmacy invests in providing professionals to serve you verses detached, offsite personnel that have never been trained as pharmacy staff. At Front Range, your pharmacists are the owners and we made sure that there were two of us from the start. Front Range will always operate from the perspective of more training, bigger hearts, better care. By having two pharmacists from day one we are afforded immediate onsite professional collaboration, less task fatigue, and more time to spend with you. Staffing more liberally will also allow us to cultivate a positive relationship with other healthcare providers in order to create a more streamlined pathway to your health. The reality is all pharmacies are getting paid based on the quality of patient outcomes, but large corporations refuse to let pharmacists step up and be the healthcare practitioner they can be. There are simply too many tiers of leadership for change to matriculate through and almost 100% of these positions are occupied by persons who have no hands-on healthcare experience. One of the huge benefits of being a small company is we can implement change quickly, whereas our competitors have an endless stream of cogs that must be turned. Our pharmacist-owned and operated company has the ability to be proactive and versatile as our profession continues to evolve. Services offered at Front Range will be extensive and include many avenues for our pharmacists to improve the health of our community. By prescribing birth control, creating flu and strep testing protocols, and managing HIV medications, our patients will have the ability to do so much more with the healthcare professionals they see the most. As the years go by, pharmacists will be relied on to create a bigger impact in your health and we are building a company that is prepared for those opportunities. We plan to not only adventure into uncharted territory as pharmacists, but also reflect on what we have the power to improve as business owners: our workplace culture. Performance reviews will be based on patient feedback, concerns, and praise vs metrics that are generated by groups of executives that have never worked a single shift inside the pharmacy. Employees will be encouraged to use their voice and we hope to create an environment that empowers our staff to feel a part of the bigger picture. Pushing our pharmacists and technicians to operate at the top of their license (verses at their functional wit’s end) is surely to result in a staff that is more knowledgable, fulfilled, and more productive by default.
The NY Times article is sparking much needed conversation and attention to the plight of the overworked pharmacist and its impact on you, the patient. Errors and mistakes in healthcare are unavoidable but most can be easily prevented when pharmacists are equipped with the time and tools they need to work safely. While no healthcare professional is immune to error, we simply want to eliminate the unnecessary distractions and stressors that plagued our former positions. Front Range Pharmacy is just as impacted, if not more, by the constricting profits in our marketplace, but our approach to business will always be to care for our team so that they can care for you. Our community needs the flexibility and deliberate care of an independent pharmacy and we cannot wait to introduce you to Front Range.