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Lack of staff in pharmacies
The pharmacist’s role is continuously evolving, with more professional skills and training required and increasing workload and responsibilities compared to pre-pandemic times. In larger European countries, there are two main reasons behind the rising demand for graduates and a lack of qualified resources: more staff are needed to deal with new tasks (such as covid-19 tests, vaccination, telemedicine, prevention screening, etc.) but growing numbers are resigning because of unsatisfactory and increasingly exhausting working conditions.
Work in a pharmacy has always been fast-paced, but in recent years the workload and associated stress have sky-rocketed, while pay, shift organisation, staff incentives and career opportunities have not similarly increased.
Recently, some pharmacies have worked behind closed doors because they lacked staff, and many candidates who passed the most recent [Italian] pharmacist’s selection exam did not apply for a job in pharmacies. A recent study by PDA (Source) showed that, in 97% of cases, interviewed pharmacists complained of understaffing and, in over 50% of cases, they said the number of hours off-work had decreased compared to the previous 3 years. If not in a pharmacy, where are these graduates in pharmaceutical sciences choosing to work? Many prefer to work for pharmaceutical companies, or in large-scale retailing or pharmacies that only sell OTC medication, where the pace is less hectic. Some pursue a career in academia while others train to join companies in roles of different kinds.
To provide workers with relief and to create a more organized and relaxed working environment, a number of technological improvements can be implemented to make processes easier.
Integrating automation into the workplace
The introduction of an automation system for drug stocking fits perfectly into this context. Thanks to robots, precious time can be saved and used to manage all the new tasks required by the Health Protection Agency. The work is without a doubt tidier and more precise; using a robot instead of a person means saving many hours normally dedicated to manually checking stocks and the expiry date on individual packages.
Additionally, an automatic stock system guarantees saving mental and physical energy. It allows pharmacists to remain at the counter and owners to dedicate their energy to more strategic tasks, as well as ensuring that customers are always given the right product. All the above means working with greater peace of mind, avoiding mistakes and delays caused by searching for a product or its equivalents, remaining more focused on patients and their needs, allowing the pharmacy’s position on the market to evolve.
With an automatic system, it is easier to delegate stock management, because the ready and automated procedures can easily be transferred from one staff member to another. The management of emergencies, thanks to the aid provided by new technologies, has become an essential skill for identifying priorities and essential tasks.
Pharmacies are transformed into professional and stimulating workplaces, with technology to support the profession, contributing to making them an attractive place to work.
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Staff shortages and the future of Pharmacy
By assisting in the streamlining of process and repetitive task such as prescription dispensing and stock management, automated solutions can help with the redistribution of staff time. Resources can then be reallocated back into focusing on patients or into providing additional services.
E-prescriptions and dispensing terminals
New opportunities for local pharmacies. E-prescription is bringing innovations that will simplify everyday pharmacy work.