The growing recognition of the importance of pharmacists and pharmacy staff on the front lines of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic could draw more students to the profession.
Already, there is a heightened demand for retail pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Soon after the pandemic hit the United States in mid-March, CVS said it would immediately fill 50,000 full- time, part-time, and temporary roles in its stores across the country.
“We have many open positions for pharmacists, technicians, and workers with health care training,” Joseph Goode, senior director of corporate communi- cations for CVS Health, told Drug Topics® at the time. Although Goode declined to reveal how many pharmacy-related jobs would be filled, there were numerous postings for pharmacists, pharmacy managers, pharmacy techs, and related positions on the CVS website.
Walgreens said it would seek to fill more than 9500 existing full-time, part- time, and temporary roles in stores across the United States. The company began offering a 1-time bonus for all hourly employees of $300 for full-time workers and $150 for part-time workers in late April.
In addition, Amazon is expected to hire some pharmacists as part of its national hiring spree of 100,000 individuals, Lucinda L. Maine, PhD, RPh, executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), told Drug Topics®.
The hiring spree is a stark reversal of the retail pharmacy trend over the past year, which saw many major drugstore chains closing stores and cutting pharmacy staff.
An increase in pharmacy school grad- uates in the past few years had made it difficult to find jobs. However, the positive press and recognition that pharmacists are receiving during the COVID-19 pandemic should bode well for the profession—and pharmacy schools—in the future.
“There have been major national TV news programs electing to profile various pharmacy stories. We would like to think that a lot of the public misunderstanding or lack of appreciation [ for the profession] maybe softened a little bit to the advantage of the profession,” Maine said.
“Pharmacies and pharmacists are offering important services related to COVID-19 and helping patients with other illnesses who are encountering an overwhelmed health care system,” said Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, in a press release.
Pharmacists’ ability to administer COVID-19 tests gives further recognition to the profession as an important health care provider.
“Pharmacies have taken a role in providing immunizations. Now pharmacy is going to be called on to conduct tests as they become less invasive. The CDC recognizes that pharmacists are skilled in this,” Lynette Bradley-Baker, PhD, RPh, senior vice president of public affairs and engagement at AACP, told Drug Topics®.
Although the surge in positivity for the profession may spur more high school students to pursue careers in pharmacy, it is too early to quantify the trend, Maine said.
“Because of the tremendous uncer- tainty about higher education in general and the dislocation of pharmacy students, we have not yet seen a turn-around in application to schools for the year that will begin in2020,”Maine noted. “It is pretty late in the cycle for that."
However, there is speculation that the favorable publicity might attract “a certain type of health profession, preprofession student, who didn’t really think of pharmacy in that way and might think of what it might take to become a pharmacist,” Maine said.
For those who don’t feel comfortable working on the frontlines because of COVID-19, there are many telehealth and online positions that also require pharmacists, Maine added.