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Why NZ pharmacy is facing a staffing landslide

Our pharmacy industry is sick and we can no longer ignore the growing list of ailments that compromise its well-being. The truth is there were visible signs before the pandemic, which accelerated the painful changes that now seem permanent aspects of the workplace.


New Zealand’s pharmacy staff are providing a growing number of essential services during the pandemic. Workloads have increased, as public fear and anxious patients avoid hospitals and medical centres and reach out to their community pharmacists for help instead. Additional responsibilities when combined with understaffing issues, have resulted in unprecedented levels of workplace frustration and job dissatisfaction. The endless patient screening, triage, vaccinations, and testing, has taken its toll, exposing our colleagues and their families to an insurmountable risk of infection.


The mental stress generated by Covid 19 has been compared by some mental health professionals, with natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis. As New Zealand’s pharmacy recruitment specialist and a practicing pharmacist, I’m witnessing these issues firsthand every day and I feel they need to be addressed quickly.


I’m extremely concerned for both the short and long-term consequences on the mental health of those working in pharmacy today.


I’ve seen an alarming drop in employee motivation throughout 2021. Staff are disillusioned, reporting anxiety and low mood as relationships break down and tempers flare. The heart of New Zealand’s particular problems appear to lie in the growing discord between employers and their employees. Business owners continue to make additional demands on their team but share none of the financial benefits with them.


It would be negligent not to mention the dire need for the community pharmacy funding model to be revised. I acknowledge the volume of scripts needed to make a dispensary profitable has grown substantially throughout the last decade.


Overwhelming Stress


Employees are no longer willing to put up with pay and working conditions they might have accepted prior to the pandemic. They feel they’ve been taken advantage of and insufficiently rewarded to manage the relentless stress levels.


Elise Gould, senior economist at Washington’s Economic Policy Institute said recently “I certainly think that the pandemic has led many people to re-evaluate their work and their priorities and what they want to do”.


Burnout and Exhaustion


New Zealand’s pharmacists are feeling totally burnt out and many can’t muster up the energy to work a full week. Positions offering four-day weeks with weekends off are in demand and they’re prepared to wait for such a position. Where once pharmacy careers would often lead to business ownership, this is now much less likely, which has direct consequences for owners wanting to sell up or retire


Resentment and Anger


The Government is providing generous financial rewards to business owners willing to carry out Covid vaccines, boosters, and Rapid Antigen Tests. These additional responsibilities are delegated to pharmacy staff, who see nothing for their support and cooperation. It’s a situation that is building resentment and anger.


Many pharmacists are trained in the profession because they care about people’s health. I’m now seeing them leave the industry in alarming numbers and this is adding pressure to an already understaffed industry. Those who do remain, have stopped going the extra mile to make the little differences that patients expect from a community pharmacist.


It seems the saying “Life is too short" has never been more pertinent as it is today.


Prescription for change


According to Forbes, during these challenging times, “Employers need to support employees in all aspects of their personal work lives. This goes beyond physical well-being to include emotional, financial, social and career wellness”


Take the time to sit down and talk to your team. Ask them how well they are coping. Treat them with kindness and be generous with your praise and flexibility. Ask them what they want and do your best to accommodate this. Address any concerns they have and be proactive. Don’t leave it too late to meet your employee’s needs or you may lose them.


If you’ve tried to encourage workers to stay and they’re still leaving, you need to consider different incentives. Show them that they are valued. And one of the best ways of doing this is to practice greater generosity, sharing the financial rewards you receive with those providing the extra services.


Consider introducing an incentive-based scheme rewarding your team with a commission for each report, each vaccine, each RAT Test, etc. that they undertake. This will address the immediate need without the commitment of an ongoing pay rise.


If you feel that the staff in your business have been negatively impacted by Covid and you need help, feel free to reach out to me and I will provide you with the necessary guidance and support.


Amelia



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