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CVS and Walgreens Walkouts: What Independent Pharmacies Should Know

In recent weeks, the pharmacy industry has been shaken up as staff walkouts at CVS and Walgreens captured the attention of pharmacy teams and patients alike. These walkouts have left many curious about the reasons behind them and what implications these events may have on the future of the pharmacy profession. By understanding what led retail pharmacy team members to take these drastic actions, we can look at what independent pharmacies can do to avoid similar issues and also how independents can help members of these communities affected by the closures of retail chains.

What to Know About the CVS & Walgreens Walkouts

To understand how the staff walkouts at CVS and Walgreens may impact independent pharmacies (and the pharmacy industry as a whole), it’s crucial to first understand what is happening and why.

What are the CVS & Walgreens Walkouts?

Twelve CVS locations in the Kansas City, Missouri region shut down on September 21st and 22nd due to walkouts. Walgreens employees also participated in walkouts from October 9th to 11th, leading to confirmed store closures in Oregon, Arizona, Washington, and Massachusetts. 

Why are the Walkouts Happening?

These potential, nationwide walkouts and rallies are a reflection of the growing discontent among retail pharmacy staff who have raised concern for years about inadequate staffing levels and increasing work expectations imposed by corporate management.

The ongoing concerns expressed by pharmacy staff relate to unreasonable demands and inadequate resources to safely and responsibly carry out tasks, including filling prescriptions. Pharmacy staff believe that these working conditions ultimately increase the likelihood of medication errors and put patients at risk of serious harm.

What is Coming Next?

According to a report from CNBC, Walgreens employees have been laying the groundwork for a nationwide walkout and multiple rallies to protest unsatisfactory working conditions. Included in these walkouts and rallies, are other retail pharmacy employees. Due to work conditions, these pharmacy teams deem as inappropriate and unjust, they are banding together for change.

The walkouts are scheduled for Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, and efforts are being made to involve pharmacy staff from other retail chains in this group walkout. The organizers see nationwide walkouts across several retail pharmacy chains as the “next step” in the fight against current working conditions.

Walgreens organizers are not only planning walkouts and rallies but are also considering pushing for unionization for pharmacy staff who are not currently represented by one. While there are ongoing talks with multiple existing unions, no concrete agreement has been reached yet.

Prioritizing a Positive Work Environment in Community Pharmacies

Other community pharmacies can take proactive steps to avoid staff issues similar to those faced by chain pharmacies and help alleviate potential pain points among their teams before they escalate to employee burnout.

Invest in Staffing: Ensure that your pharmacy is adequately staffed to handle the volume of prescriptions and patient care services efficiently. Prioritize hiring and training, and be prepared to adjust staffing levels as needed. A well-staffed pharmacy will not only lead to a happier and more efficient team, it will lead to satisfied patients, which will all translate into increased revenue for the pharmacy.

Prioritize Safety: Make the safety of your staff a top priority, taking cues from the safety concerns raised by the Walgreens walkout. Provide your team members with the necessary PPE, ensure a clean and sanitary work environment, and establish clear protocols for dealing with health emergencies.

Employee Support: Recognize the importance of mental wellness among your pharmacy team members,  particularly in light of the burnout and mental health issues emphasized by employees partaking in the Walgreens & CVS walkouts. Offer resources and support for mental health, and implement measures to prevent burnout. Consider adding “Mental Health” Days to the employee’s benefits and allow your staff to take them as needed. Encourage open communication with your staff to address their concerns.

Patient-Centered Care: Emphasize patient-centered care and provide additional services that set your pharmacy apart, building upon the patient care concerns that have been expressed throughout the industry. Offer medication counseling, adherence programs, and personalized consultations to build patient loyalty. This remains critical in the evolving healthcare landscape.

Assisting Patients Affected by Potential Closures

The closures of CVS and Walgreens locations may leave patients searching for alternative pharmacies in a pinch, and independent pharmacies are preparing to step in as this is an opportunity to help out their local communities and position themselves as a dependable alternative for patients seeking care. Here are some key considerations to be prepared to assist your community should closures occur at other pharmacies in your area:

Promote Accessibility: Make it known that your pharmacy is open and ready to serve patients affected by the closures. Consider extending your operating hours if possible to accommodate your community’s needs.

Streamline Transfers: If your community is being impacted by retail chain closure, then there are likely many frustrated patients in your community who are in need of getting their prescriptions filled quickly. Help them transfer their prescriptions to your pharmacy in a timely manner and make sure your staff is prepared to assist patients transition seamlessly and efficiently.

Community Outreach: Actively spread the word to community members who may be affected by the closures by sending communications through social media or add a banner to your pharmacy website to remind your community that you are here if needed and ready to assist with transfers.

Special Offers: Consider offering special discounts or incentives to attract new patients from the affected areas, demonstrating your commitment to their well-being. This can help in building trust and loyalty, especially in the context of patient care.

Conclusion
The staff walkouts at CVS and Walgreens serve as a reminder of the industry-wide challenges faced by pharmacy professionals in today’s healthcare landscape. Independent pharmacies can take proactive steps to avoid similar staff issues that retail chains are experiencing while also providing support to patients affected by pharmacy closures. By investing in staffing, prioritizing safety, supporting employees, and delivering patient-centered care, independent pharmacies can thrive and continue to be essential healthcare providers in their communities.

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