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Pharmacy Workers Are the Pandemic’s Invisible Victims

Relentless pressure, extra tasks, and depleted ranks lead to widespread burnout.

Pharmacist Jennifer Morrow quit her job at a CVS store over what she saw as a dangerous workload.

Pharmacist Jennifer Morrow quit her job at a CVS store over what she saw as a dangerous workload.

Photographer: Heather Ainsworth for Bloomberg Businessweek

Jennifer Morrow says she first considered quitting her job as a pharmacist at a CVS drugstore near Binghamton, N.Y., last October after she was assigned to fill in at a store she’d rarely worked in. When she arrived, she discovered she’d be the only pharmacist on the job all day—with no technician or cashier to help, either. The pandemic was raging. The phones were ringing, and prescriptions quickly backed up as she turned her attention to giving Covid-19 vaccinations and flu shots. By 4 p.m., she was hours behind schedule. Overwhelmed, exhausted, and worried she’d make a mistake filling a prescription, she closed the pharmacy early, forcing customers to find other stores.

Not long after that day, Morrow, who’d worked for CVS for eight years, quit her job when working conditions continued to deteriorate. “I would say a little prayer before I went into work, ‘Lord, please let me help somebody today,’ ” she says. “But that white coat got heavier and heavier every day, and my prayer changed to, ‘Dear Lord, just don’t let me kill somebody today.’ ”