The good news is that the majority of pharmacists got a pay raise in 2017, but it came with a downside: a rise in stress levels.
That’s the bottom line from an exclusive Drug Topics' 2017 Salary Survey. More than half of pharmacists who responded to the survey reported receiving a raise this year. Although the salary increases weren’t huge (86.7% reported receiving a raise of 3% or less), every little bit helps when it comes to paying off student debt, buying a house, or starting an independent practice.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that two out of three of respondents said their workload has increased over the past year. About 60% said their stress levels at work went up. (See Figures 1 and 2.)
No practice setting is immune from stress. “Pharmacy is getting busier, more stress on pharmacists is what I hear from my colleagues,” said Alex Bertram, PharmD. He is the only pharmacist in the only pharmacy in a rural town in Ohio. “A lot of push, push, push for more prescriptions because margins are shrinking and you need more volume to make up for the disappearing margins.”
For the independent pharmacist, pressure starts with the mechanism that reimburses a growing proportion of prescriptions below cost. And in many small pharmacies, most business is at the pharmacy counter, not the front end.
On the professional side, there is too much to do and not enough time to get it all done, even in an independent pharmacy with no direct competition, like Bertam’s pharmacy.
At his pharmacy, the pressures are at a pretty steady volume that he said he could handle without too much stress. “The problem is I want to do so much more with patients. I want to do more MTM, more vaccinations, more counseling, more patient interaction. And since I’m the only pharmacist around, almost all of my day is checking and verifying prescriptions,” Bertram said. “My biggest stress is not being able to do the things I want to do as a pharmacist, the things I am trained to do as a pharmacist. Instead, I end up doing the things I have to do just to get through the day.”
Stress, or at least job demands that can lead to stress, is built into pharmacy and the rest of health-care. But the nature of the stress changes depending on practice setting.
When Drug Topics talked with pharmacists who volunteered to share their responses, we found that chain and big box pharmacists were the least satisfied.
Kevin Gossett, PharmD, described big box pharmacy as a pressure cooker. “Pharmacy is the highest stress job out there,” he said. “You have pressures from your customers, pressures from corporate, pressures from payers, pressures from every direction. Even the staff pressures you. Like most pharmacists, if I had known before I started pharmacy school what I know now, I would not do it again.”
Up next: Stress, challenges, and job satisfaction