The shortage of pharmacists across the country is hitting people hard right here in central Indiana. 

Some locations may be experiencing reduced hours, and it’s restricting people’s access to their life-saving medication. 

“It’s just a really frustrating time,” said Veronica Vernon, Butler University assistant professor of Pharmacy Practice. 

“I think I want everyone to know that your pharmacy staff is really frustrated too.”    

From new incentives to new school programs and recruiting younger students, Vernon says there’s a lot in the works to help boost the pharmacy staff in Indiana. 

Vernon is also the president of the Indiana Pharmacist Association and she says that retail chains are offering bonuses for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to work for them. 

A spokesperson from Kroger says: 

“Most of our Kroger pharmacies have restored hours as they overcome the challenges imposed by COVID. We expect the progress to continue in the weeks ahead, maintaining the Kroger Health commitment to help people live healthier lives.” 

A representative from Walgreens said something similar and released this statement. 

“Generally speaking, what we have been seeing in some areas is consistent with what many other healthcare entities have been experiencing – staffing challenges due to the ongoing labor shortage and ongoing demand for COVID-related services. As a result, there are some instances in which we’ve had to adjust or reduce pharmacy operating hours, as we work to balance staffing and resources in the market to best meet customer demand. We continue to take steps to help mitigate current staffing pressures, including ongoing review of staffing levels within our pharmacies in order to meet the needs of our customers and patients, and hiring thousands (approximately 9,000 since late 2020) of new pharmacy team members. We are grateful for the responsibilities our pharmacists are fulfilling since the beginning of the pandemic, whether its administering life-saving vaccines, or helping patients keep up with prescriptions and health screenings.”    

Scott Goldberg, Director of Global Corporate Communications 

Vernon also says two out of the three Indiana pharmacy schools, Butler and Manchester, are also working to add a new hybrid online program to give people more access to classes. 

The schools are also starting to recruit high school students to get them interested in the subject. 

Vernon says it’s ultimately to help the patients. 

“I never want my patients to go without their medications. And this can be a life-or-death situation if you run out of your medication and your pharmacy is closed and you’re not expecting it to be closed that day.” 

She also says the pandemic accelerated the burnout of pharmacists. Many are leaving community pharmacy for other careers in hospitals and doctor’s offices or clinics. And she says many pharmacies have closed and increased the workload for those still open. 

Vernon, a pharmacist herself for over a decade, says her fellow colleagues have stepped up during the pandemic – offering COVID 19 vaccinations and testing on top of daily duties, but neither staffing nor wages increased to meet those demands. 

“We don’t want to be cutting our hours, but we’re put in a predicament where we don’t have enough staff to run the store and our pharmacists have worked six to seven, eight, nine, 10 days in a row and we physically can’t do more.” 

Vernon says if you have medication you rely on, it’s best to call at least a week in advance if you need a refill. Also, look for an alternative pharmacy you can go to that also takes your insurance, if you have it. 

Vernon says right now there is a lot of strain on community pharmacies. 

“We have many prescriptions to fill now, unfortunately, what we are seeing is pharmacies are doing 13, 14,15 hours’ worth of work where they were normally opening for that amount of time, in a seven or eight-hour period,” said Vernon.  

Vernon also says the Indiana Pharmacist Association is dedicating its fall meeting in September to working on solutions to the issues, and how they can address them across the state by working with the schools and different pharmacies.