June 24, 2021
The worst of the coronavirus pandemic has thankfully passed, but it isn’t over yet. While many people are probably eager to throw away their masks, your staff members and patients may be nervous about relaxing safety measures around the pharmacy.
Though they are rare, breakthrough transmissions for vaccinated people have occurred, especially some of the newest variants. Some patients may be immunocompromised or may not eligible to get vaccinated yet. Not to mention, after a year of non-stop worry, many patients or staff members just have reservations about going back to the pre-pandemic norms.
Use these tips to balance rolling back pandemic precautions while balancing the safety concerns of staff and patients.
Late this spring, the CDC updated its guidance on mask-wearing to say that vaccinated people can now safely go without a mask, but unvaccinated people are still recommended to wear them.
This is a good starting point, but be sure to check in with your local regulations, as some areas of the country still have stricter mask mandates in place. By following the law in your area, you demonstrate to your staff members that you are taking their safety seriously.
Keep an eye on coronavirus statistics for your area to help you make safety decisions in your pharmacy. If your community has low vaccination rates, higher-than-average infection rates, and lax safety laws, you may want to deviate from the local norms and set stricter regulations in your pharmacy in order to protect both your staff members and vulnerable patients.
Just because masks are now optional in most areas of the United States, that doesn’t mean you should do away with the social distancing measures you put in place in your pharmacy.
Keep the floor markers and signage encouraging six feet of distance between patients and staff members, and don’t take down the plexiglass barriers at the cash wrap just yet.
Especially since they are more likely to be interacting with maskless patients now, continuing these measures will help your staff members feel more comfortable at work.
Whether you decide to follow the CDC guidelines or implement stricter masking rules for your pharmacy, use the honor system with your patients. Trust that they’ll wear a mask if they need to, and don’t interrogate them if they walk through the door with their face uncovered.
If you make your employees the enforcers of masking and social distancing rules, they could become the target for an irate patient. With Covid-19 cases taking a nosedive throughout the country, you don’t need to police patients’ safety measures in the store.
Even though the CDC has relaxed its stance on masking, you still set the rules for employees at your pharmacies. OSHA recommends that people in retail settings that serve the public face-to-face should continue wearing masks, and you can make that a workplace rule.
Seeing employees wearing masks will provide comfort to patients that are still skittish about being in public, and it will continue to protect your employees.
You can set the rules based on your employees’ comfort level. If they know all their co-workers are vaccinated and are comfortable around each other unmasked, give them permission to unmask while in the break room or back office while still wearing them when they’re in a patient-facing position.
Some of your employees might feel a lot safer if they know their co-workers are all vaccinated.
While you can require your employees to get a vaccine, using incentives to encourage them to get vaccinated might be a better route. Offer a day of paid time off or a gift card to a local restaurant for employees that get vaccinated. It may convince employees that are on the fence about the vaccine to go ahead and get the jab.
Over half of all Americans have now received a Covid-19 vaccination. But the rate of vaccinations is slowing down and there is still a huge chunk of the population that hasn’t received the shot.
Continue to offer the shot to patients you know haven’t been vaccinated, because the more people in your community that are vaccinated, the safer it will be for your staff members to come to work.
Before you make any big changes to the safety measures in your pharmacy, let your staff members know about the plan and ask them for their input.
Otherwise, it’s possible that your employees will go along with changes they aren’t truly comfortable with and spend their entire shifts nervous and eager to leave.
Survey your staff to get a general sense of their expectations about safety and take that into consideration as you relax the rules.
If you’re bringing on new employees, take a second look at the job description. Have the duties and expectations for the job changed since the start of the pandemic?
Make expectations clear around sanitation and safety measures so new hires know exactly what to expect when they start in their new position.
If you’re currently still taking the same safety measures you were at the height of the pandemic and a candidate is looking for a laxer environment, they should know that before they take the job.
PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The member-owned company serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.
An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.
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