The last few years have shaken up the pharmacy industry in several ways. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, you have likely experienced a dramatic change in your independent pharmacy’s supply chain, workflow, and staff. 

It’s another story for independent pharmacists. Staff pharmacists are there for the long haul, having at least eight years of college education to wear that white coat. 

However, as we mentioned in our “Explore the True Value of Pharmacy Techs” blog, the state of pharmacy employees is in a state of flux. This time, we’re looking into the current pharmacist shortage. 

Here’s what you need to know about the current pharmacist shortage. 

What is Causing the Current Pharmacist Shortage?

As with any industry, burnout is a key contributor to the current pharmacist shortage. Even before the pandemic, data from Drug Topics show that 71% of pharmacists felt they had a high or excessive workload. 

This figure surely skyrocketed during the pandemic and its subsequential aftermath. Inventory and vaccine shortages remain an ongoing issue, which makes a pharmacist’s long-term workload especially cumbersome.

Pharmacists nationwide also now have more responsibilities than before. They played a huge role in administering the COVID-19 vaccine. As of April 27, 2023, pharmacists have administered approximately 302.3 million doses of the vaccine, according to the CDC

Currently, the BLS projects a 2% employment growth rate for pharmacists, much slower than other professions. 

The lack of industry growth naturally affects the financial health of pharmacies. Fewer bodies — particularly pharmacists — result in less workplace efficiency and worse workflow. This then leads to a drop in quality patient care and customer satisfaction, leading to patients taking their business elsewhere. 

This figure undoubtedly skyrocketed during the pandemic and its subsequential aftermath. Inventory and vaccine shortages remain an ongoing issue, which makes a pharmacist’s long-term workload especially cumbersome.

The Ongoing Impact of the Pharmacist Shortage 

An NCPA report found that a high percentage of independent pharmacies report a shortage of diabetes medications, amoxicillin, and Adderall — all high-volume items for the average independent pharmacy. 

Pharmacies usually handle shortages by ordering the medication (even if it is unavailable), offering a partial or “emergency” fill, or transferring the prescription to a pharmacy with it.

The current pharmacist shortage has caused big chains — CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart — to shorten their hours of operation. 

Independent pharmacies are typically more flexible with their hours and workflow, coming up with a solution that works for their specific needs. And that’s what the next sections are all about: how to manage the current pharmacist shortage.

Look Into Staffing Agencies


Pharmacy staffing agencies or recruiters help alleviate some pressure from the current pharmacist shortage. They are exactly what they sound like: they provide part-time or temporary staffing to fill some crucial healthcare voids.

Depending on your independent pharmacy’s financial health, staffing agencies or recruiters might be the way to go. Each company offers different kinds of services for different rates, so find the best solution that best works for your independent pharmacy. 

Some prominent pharmacy staffing agencies or recruiters include: 

See if pharmacy staffing agencies are the best solution for your independent pharmacy.

Collaborate with Your Community  

When in doubt, reach out. Teamwork and collaboration are essential parts of running a successful independent pharmacy. It truly takes a village, whether that takes the form of your pharmacy staff, patients, or fellow healthcare professionals. 

Pharmacists know how it feels to be short-staffed on a Monday evening when the phones are ringing off the hook and the drive-thru line grows bigger by the minute. 

As such, they are like to lend a helping hand during the current pharmacist shortage. However, you and the floater-to-be need to jump through a series of hoops. 

Documentation is the name of the game here. Make sure the fill-in pharmacists report to the state board of pharmacy about working in different locations. As a precaution, check the state board website prior to welcoming another pharmacist on board. 

Once you’ve crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s, you’ll be able to alleviate some pressure during the current pharmacist shortage. 

Use Your Pharmacy Software System 

As we established in the previous section, the independent pharmacy sector benefits from its respective community. 

Pharmacies also benefit from the power and versatility of their pharmacy software system. And in situations like a pharmacist shortage, you’ll need all the help you can get. 

Working short-handed is an inevitable reality for your independent pharmacy. Whether it’s a tech calling in sick or the effects of the current pharmacist shortage, you’ll be in a spot where you must think on your feet. 

Your pharmacy software system defines and shapes your workflow. You should already have a software system that effectively meets your pharmacy’s needs. This gives you a good starting point to handle any pharmacy-related issues. 

The name of the game here is delegate. Assign one tech to handle the fill queue and a clerk to help out with the checkout line. Make sure your four-point queue is empty, then see what else needs to be done (vaccine queue, phone calls, insurance claim issues). 

There’s no need to fret, even if it’s just you and tech for the day. Have them handle the patients while you take care of the fill queue. Your pharmacy’s automated features will help ease some workplace pressure too. 

Though a short-handed day is tough, your pharmacy software system will help in several obvious and subtle ways. 


The current pharmacist shortage is affecting various aspects of the industry. When it comes to your independent pharmacy, it might mean fewer bodies, a heavier workload, and a quicker road to burning out. 

Though the days might be long and tough, having a plan of action will make the road ahead just a little smoother. 

Reach out to the community, delegate work tasks, look into pharmacy staffing or recruiting agencies, or lean on your pharmacy software system (definitely do that last one no matter what). 

The road ahead might be bumpy, but it’s doable — you just need to know where to go.