Times are changing in the pharmacy industry. At the time of writing, retail pharmacy workers from national chains like CVS and Walgreens are planning to unionize.
To some, unionizing was only a matter of time. To others, it’s a surprising (but welcome) shakeup to a side of the industry that has prioritized growing its profits over patient health.
Whatever the fallout of the recent walkouts and unionization efforts bring, the pharmacy industry is due for some change — and we’re here to catch you up.
Here’s what you need to know about the recent pharmacist walkouts and what it might mean for your independent pharmacy.
Earlier this fall, pharmacy workers at CVS and Walgreens staged three separate walkouts across the country to protest severe understaffing and harsh working conditions.
The walkouts have now resulted in a formal unionization effort backed by the Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and pharmacy labor activists.
Speaking to CNN, the newly formed Pharmacy Guild — the name of the worker empowerment project — describes what the walkouts and push to unionization means for the industry.
“This is more than a union organizing effort. It is a call to take this powerful social movement of pharmacy professionals to the next level by developing the organizational infrastructure and institutional influence necessary to make real change.”
The Pharmacy Guild is protesting against working conditions and highlighting the serious consequences it might have on patient health.
“This was always about patient safety and access to safe patient care. This is the next step,” says Dr. Shane Jerominski, an independent pharmacist who helped organize the initial walkouts.
It is worth noting that most pharmacy staff from chains like CVS and Walgreens do not have union representation while others do, namely Kroger.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for MSNBC said that the pharmacy chain has taken steps to “ensure that [their] teams can concentrate on providing optimal care.”
What’s more, both CVS and Walgreens have said that the pharmacy walkouts have had a minimal impact on their pharmacy operations.
While the walkouts might not have affected their pharmacy’s workflow, the current press coverage shines a light on the fact that these chain pharmacists are disgruntled with the current conditions. Only time will tell what the long-lasting effects of the walkouts are.
Now we get to the independent side of things. Being an independent pharmacy owner has its own share of obstacles and hurdles to jump through. While the current pharmacist walkouts involve chain pharmacists, independent pharmacies do factor into the equation.
Most independent pharmacists open their own practice to get away from corporate red tape and overregulation. You can care for your patients your way, not having to follow a one-size-fits-all solution. Every patient has their own health journey, and your methods of patient care should reflect that.
The recent media coverage might prompt patients to take their business elsewhere, making your pharmacy a prime healthcare destination.
You might have to brace yourself for a sudden influx of new patients as a result of the pharmacist walkouts. Future shifts might be busier than usual (especially during the holiday season), so take an all-hands-on-deck approach to pharmacy work.
That shouldn’t be too hard if you have a pharmacy software system like PioneerRx, where you can customize your workflow to suit your pharmacy’s needs best. From automated reports to enhanced point-of-sale features, PioneerRx can make any peak rushes feel like light work.
Check out our blog, “7 PioneerRx Features to Grow Your Pharmacy’s Profitability,” to learn how PioneerRx can take your pharmacy’s profits to the next level.
Beyond the productivity side of things, make sure your new patients feel welcomed when they walk through your doors. You don’t have to roll out the red carpet for them; a simple greeting and “How are you?” should do the trick (sometimes the simple solutions are the best ones).
So prepare for the rush ahead, whether it’s due to a sudden influx of new patients or the holiday rush (more on that in this blog). Your current and prospective customers — and your pharmacy’s profits — will thank you for it.
The recent pharmacist walkouts and unionization efforts mainly involve chain pharmacy workers. Even so, it affects the entire pharmacy industry, from fellow pharmacists to primary care physicians.
Reach out to your fellow healthcare professionals about the recent walkouts. Though a doctor’s office wouldn’t directly be affected, they may prefer to send an ER script to a pharmacy other than the usual chain pharmacy.
Let them know your pharmacy is ready, willing, and able to fill any void left by the walkouts.
You likely won’t only get an influx of new patients. Your pharmacy might encounter a slew of pharmacists finding new work. While the current walkouts and unionization efforts haven’t resulted in employee turnover, some pharmacists might decide to rip the chain bandaid and try their hand at the independent scene.
Depending on your pharmacy’s volume, you might not have any open pharmacist positions. Even then, encourage them to go work in an independent pharmacy, which will be a welcome change of pace from the tempo of chain pharmacy.
A few words of encouragement can go a long way in helping your fellow pharmacist take that first step into a new chapter of their career — all it takes is a gentle push.
It’s too soon to tell what the lasting impact of the recent pharmacist walkouts will be. Still, we can surmise that the union genie is now out of the bottle and there’s no way to put it back in.
As independent pharmacists, you enjoy the freedom of independents and have relatively free reign to run your pharmacy your way. While the recent walkouts involve your chain counterparts, you and your pharmacy still have a role to play.
Welcome new patients, reach out to fellow healthcare professionals, and see if you have room for a pharmacist taking the independent plunge. Whatever the future brings, help make it a bright one for your pharmacy, staff, and community.