Survey finds chain store pharmacy employees dissatisfied with working conditions

Pharmacist holding tube. Adobe image.

LAWRENCE — A newly published survey reveals that chain store pharmacists and pharmacy technicians were dissatisfied with certain job conditions even before the COVID-19 pandemic increased their stress, and it sheds light on some of the strike actions they've undertaken this year.

The paper, “Pharmacy Work: Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Rewards Across Role and Setting,” was just published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. The co-authors are Angela Gist-Mackey and Cameron Piercy, both associate professors in the University of Kansas Department of Communication Studies, and Jessica Bates, clinical associate professor in the KU School of Pharmacy.

They surveyed 129 pharmacists and 111 pharmacy technicians, asking them 92 questions about their work, including perceptions of their workplace autonomy, competence, relationships, pay satisfaction and benefit satisfaction. The pharmacies in which they worked were categorized into one of three settings: chain store, independent or health care system.

The survey was conducted in 2020, just before COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns were declared across the country and around the world.

“Even before the pandemic, there were stressors in the community-retail sector: just feeling a little undervalued, staff hours constantly being cut, pharmacist overlap hours being cut and additional tasks being added to your workday,” Bates said. “Then with a pandemic and the introduction of a lot more vaccinations into your normal workflow, it really adds to the stress. Plus, people were leaving the health care workforce in general just because of the pandemic, and many had fears of what the illness might do to them personally.”

Bates said that not only have “lots more vaccinations been given, but the volume of regular prescriptions is continuing to increase as the population ages.”

For Gist-Mackey, “the more compelling finding” is the perception of pay and benefits by chain store workers.

“We asked our participants about their income, and that did not vary across context. But what was really interesting was that chain employees were largely dissatisfied with their compensation and pay, even though they're being equitably compensated,” Gist-Mackey said. “So there is something happening in chain store workplace contexts. ... I would argue it’s likely they feel they're just not being compensated enough to deal with the kinds of things chain pharmacy employees are having to deal with at work. It doesn't seem worth it.”

These findings of relative satisfaction — with both pay and other conditions — were consistent within pharmacy setting, applying to both pharmacists and lower-paid pharmacy technicians.

“We expected, and hypothesized, that pharmacy technicians and the pharmacists would differ a lot,” Piercy said. “But what we found is the setting is the big driving force here. It's not the role that you're in.”

The KU researchers said they initially received some pushback from journal editors, concerned they had exaggerated the influence of the chain store setting in their study. But while in the review process, a series of strikes this fall by CVS and Walgreens pharmacists seemed to soften their objections, Gist-Mackey said.

“It helped us persuade the editorial team that we're not exaggerating those findings around context, that where you're working does matter, and that it is negatively affecting people's work lives, so much so that they were willing to walk out to make a stand for better conditions,” Gist-Mackey said. “We'll see if anything changes.”

Credit: Adobe Images / AS Photo Family

Thu, 12/14/2023


Rick Hellman

Media Contacts

Rick Hellman

KU News Service