Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is taking steps to ease the heavy, demanding workloads of pharmacists. Pharmacists play a vital role in patient safety, but they often work long hours that involve filling hundreds of prescriptions in a single shift. The stress of working in a busy pharmacy can give rise to the risk of prescription errors.
New state regulations propose to provide an uninterrupted 30-minute meal period and an extra 15-minute break for pharmacists who work six straight hours. Those working 12-hour shifts will get an additional 15-minute break. Current state law does not have any mandated pharmacist breaks.
The measure also aims to give pharmacists enough time to look at patient drug histories while eliminating extra tasks that can distract them from dispensing medications safely and correctly. Pharmacies may face discipline for failing to allow pharmacists enough time to answer patient questions, review their drug histories, administer immunizations and check prescription accuracy.
The proposed changes are being drafted in response to recommendations issued by the Illinois Collaborative Pharmaceutical Task Force. State officials believe following the recommendations will improve working conditions for pharmacists while reducing errors and boosting patient safety.
Tens of thousands of patients are hospitalized each year due to dangerous drug interactions. The task force was formed after a 2016 Chicago Tribune investigation that found more than half of 255 Chicago-area pharmacies had failed to warn reporters about potentially harmful drug combinations. The task force’s objective was to determine why pharmacists missed them, along with making recommendations on how to ease stress and minimize distractions like having to meet company quotas for immunizations.
Following the Chicago Tribune report, several national pharmacy chains said they took steps to better identify harmful drug interactions and protect patients. For instance, Walgreens provided extra training while CVS improved its alert system.