Understaffing, increased expectations and new COVID-19 era responsibilities are creating extreme burnout among pharmacy technicians, who are citing concerns about its impact on patient safety, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Pharmacy Technician Association.
The survey of 1,386 pharmacy technicians found that poor working conditions have driven 36% of respondents to plan to leave their jobs within the next three to 12 months. This is in addition to the record-setting 25.7% growth in job transition for pharmacy technicians observed from 2019 to 2021, according to NPTA.
When it comes to burnout, 91.4% of participants report experiencing burnout caused by unmanageable workloads due to understaffing and increased responsibilities, unrealistic expectations, low wages and even productivity quotas. On top of these demands, 44% of participants said their employers also do not provide legally required breaks.
Still, 91.6% reported that they have a passion for their work. That passion, coupled with concerns about the impacts of burnout, led 56% of respondents to report that these conditions are negatively affecting patient safety. Burnout in pharmacies can result in serious or even fatal medication errors, NPTA noted.
"As the largest organization of pharmacy technicians, our No. 1 priority has always been ensuring the quality and safety of patient care," said Mike Johnston, CEO of NPTA. "We all have a responsibility to ensure pharmacies make significant changes to these working conditions, not only for the benefit of their employees, but also to protect their patients."
To support these advocacy efforts to improve patient safety, NPTA has partnered with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices to invite pharmacy technicians to participate in a new, anonymous survey requesting specific accounts of how these working conditions are negatively impacting patient safety. Results from this survey will be shared with regulators, legislators, employers and industry organizations to provide the data needed to bring about change. Anonymous submissions can be made here.
The survey results come on the heels of news last month about a pharmacist shortage being the latest concern affecting the pharmacy industry. Currently, 80% of pharmacies are having trouble finding pharmacists, and many are offering huge sign-on bonuses of up to $50,000 to entice them.
Bridging the gap
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists also is keeping tabs on the pharmacy technician employment situation.
A recent ASHP survey found that a majority of hospital and health-system pharmacy administrators reported turnover rates of at least 21-30% in 2021, and nearly 1 in 10 had lost 41% or more of their pharmacy technicians. The survey also showed that a growing number of health systems are responding to technician requests for professional development by implementing internal technician training programs.
In response, ASHP has launched PharmTech Ready, a resource to help bridge the professional development and training gaps that are among the drivers of the current nationwide shortage of pharmacy technicians.
PharmTech Ready provides healthcare organizations with tools to develop internal training programs to strengthen their ability to recruit, retain and advance the pharmacy technician workforce. The program aligns with the didactic learning requirements of the ASHP/Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education Model Curriculum. Users can adapt the training program to a variety of settings and methods of delivery for technician training programs. The program features over 160 hours of entry- and advanced-level content on more than 70 topics and includes supplemental materials that will allow healthcare organizations to leverage their sites for experiential training.
“The growing shortage of pharmacy technicians poses a significant challenge to achieving optimal medication outcomes and protecting patient safety,” said ASHP CEO Paul Abramowitz. “PharmTech Ready draws on ASHP’s extensive experience in developing education and practice resources for the pharmacy workforce and will help technicians build the skills needed to fulfill their essential role on the healthcare team.”
PharmTech Ready includes access to a range of exclusive ASHP continuing education, tools and other resources to bolster pharmacy technicians’ professional development and support their career advancement as critical members of the healthcare team.
For more information about PharmTech Ready, visit here.