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COVID-19 Pandemic Has Left Many Area Pharmacists Feeling Stretched Too Thin And Fearful Of Making Mistakes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Many in the pharmacy industry chose their profession so they could help others. But the strain of the pandemic has left them needing help of their own.

CBS2's Cory James has more on the burnout among pharmacy professionals, and how some feel their calls for help aren't being answered.

"I was always interested in helping people. Pharmacy seemed like a good choice for me," one worker said. "But, honestly, I wasn't exactly prepared for what it's been like now."

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Work for that Tri-State Area pharmacist has, "been pretty rough."

And it has been risky. Filling more than 250 prescriptions a day is now becoming a challenge because of the pandemic.

He said "vaccines and testing" are two added tasks that jeopardize patient safety.

"Each prescription only ends up getting a few minutes of your time. Mistakes can make it through, and somebody gets the wrong medication for the wrong thing," the pharmacist said.

And a mistake is what made pharmacist Bled Tanoe give up her lifelong dream last August.

"There was not enough people to handle the work. So what happened that day is that I did all of it. I did the data entry, I did the verification of the data, the product and then I also did the last check. So when it went out, the patient came back and said, 'This is wrong.' The medication was correct, but the directions were wrong," Tanoe said.

According to the American Pharmacists Association, a recent survey about COVID-19 demands impacting operations revealed 78% of pharmacists are exhausted from work.

And according to the National Community Pharmacists Association, about 70% of independent pharmacists say they are struggling to fill staff positions, like pharmacy technicians.

A Rite Aid pharmacy technician said it wasn't like this before the pandemic, and she understands why.

"It's hard to even just try to balance out doing prescriptions, which is like literally our sole purpose, or it was our sole purpose. Now it's just like COVID, COVID, COVID," she said." I don't want somebody to get the wrong medication, get the wrong vaccine because we're feeling pressure from all sides."

CBS2 reached out to Rite Aid for comment, but did not hear back.

However, those CBS2 spoke with say when they asked for additional staffing, corporate reminds them of the budget, which makes them question if they will ever get what is needed to properly and safely do their job.

"Having more help would definitely help. And I'm sure more and more people will start to quit if it doesn't change soon," said one pharmacist.

And hanging up the white coat is a move some are making of the the fear of the stress of being stretched too thin could end deadly.

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