3 reasons pharmacist pay fell 5% last year

Despite tackling more responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists saw their inflation-adjusted pay drop by about 5 percent last year, according to a recent The New York Times report.

For months, pharmacies have struggled to retain and hire workers, and some customers are shifting from retail chains to local pharmacies after months of long lines. In some areas, Walgreens is offering bonuses up to $75,000 to recruit workers. 

The cost of being understaffed isn't only hurting consumers but also the few workers left, many of whom have reported burnout after bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 response. 

"It was so mentally taxing," Amanda Poole, PharmD, a pharmacist in Tuscaloosa, Ala., told the Times. "Every day, I was like: I hope I don't kill anyone."

Three reasons pay for pharmacists has lagged, according to the Aug. 20 Times article:

1. Pay for pharmacists — who typically complete about six to seven years of higher education — was higher in the 2000s because of a staffing shortage set off by an older population with more chronic conditions. That rise has since leveled off.

2. When retail chains buy competitors in large deals, the move is a boost for executives but results in stagnant hiring capabilities. In 2017, Walgreens bought 2,000 Rite Aid stores and then closed more than 500 of its own locations the same year.

3. Pharmacies have pushed to hire more people, but figures are swelling with pharmacy technicians, who can help fill prescriptions and are cheaper to hire, rather than pharmacists, who have to approve every prescription.

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