LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The next time you go to your local pharmacy, you might have to wait a little longer to get your prescription medicine.
The shortage of workers in different industries is now affecting pharmacies around the country and here in the valley.
Technicians are the ones who do most of the work you don’t see--like filling the prescriptions and taking the phone calls. And a shortage can spell trouble for more than just pharmacies.
“It is a domino effect,” said Bola Durosawo, pharmacy owner and manager at Monicos.
“You need enough technicians at work, period. There’s no pharmacy that will do well if you don’t have enough technicians.”
It is a problem that has pushed many technicians in the pharmacy field to a breaking point.
There has been an increased need for them during the pandemic, which has heightened the poor working conditions.
“People are getting burnt out,” she said. “You get new people who are tired already because they’re working so much more. They don’t know the field already and then they don’t want to come back to work.”
Local pharmacies are doing what they currently can to make these technicians feel more valued by targeting mental health.
“We’re talking to them about the work-life balance,” said Durosawo. “We’re making sure that their schedule makes sense—they’re not working from nine to nine. We make sure that we show them the workload and what they’re doing and how they’re impacting the community. And that helps them because it gives them a sense of ownership.”
Many pharmacies have had to alter their hours because of the shortage, which has spilled over into our lives, as well.
“The patient is either going to go without their meds, be delayed in their medication, or God forbid an error occur and an adverse effect happen to the patient,” said Dr. Christina Madison, associate professor of pharmacy practice at Roseman University.
Before the pandemic, there would commonly be crossover on shifts. More pharmacists, more techs, more help.
“That’s not the case anymore,” she said. “They have one pharmacist for 12 hours in one shift. And they may or may not have more than one technician. And that’s just not feasible, especially with the amount of prescriptions that they have to fill. As well as doing COVID testing and COVID vaccinations.”
She says they are not paid at the level they should be, especially with their increased workload. The median income is $16.87 cents.
“I’m hopeful that with awareness and with calling out these poor working conditions and the fact that we do need more assistance, that hopefully a minimum work standard will be established,” said Dr. Madison. “And making sure that those technicians are paid at a level that they feel like it’s worth them staying in the profession.”
The shortages are such a problem that the Clark County School District has partnered with community groups such as Las Vegas HEALS are working with them to help train and guide the next generation of techs and other medical workers.