Is the pharmacist shortage over?

January 15, 2010

Increasing enrollment in pharmacy schools and changing economic factors appear to have eased the national pharmacist shortage. In order to plan appropriately for all stakeholders, we need to quantify the numbers when we talk about a pharmacist shortage.

Key Points

I bring to this subject a few different perspectives. In my present capacity as a faculty member at University of the Incarnate Word Feik School of Pharmacy in San Antonio, Texas, I planned the Career Fair/Interview Day for our first graduating class. When I was director of professional recruiting and college relations at Walmart, I was responsible for recruiting and staffing more than 3,600 stores, which gave me a unique opportunity to develop a national perspective on pharmacist staffing. And during my time as a pharmacy district manager, I faced the challenge of recruiting graduates who received offers from just about every company they interviewed with, typically at least five or six. In addition, at that time incentives such as sign-on bonuses and relocation assistance were more widely available.

Companies generally recruited aggressively, on a daily basis as well as at campus interview days. However, at Feik's interview day in October 2009, I did not feel that sense of urgency from employers. Company representatives stated that compared with previous years, fewer employers were attending career fairs. Job offers were much more selective, and some of our students, who had worked with their respective companies for several years, were not offered a position even with their own employers. Sign-on bonuses were available only for select positions, and the interviewing process was much more rigorous.

In addition, the economic downturn has impelled some retired pharmacists to reenter the workforce in an effort to augment their retirement income or bolster their savings. I am working now with two pharmacists who came out of retirement this past year; both are over 80 years of age.

Although I am fully aware that there will always be certain areas of the country that face shortages, I do not know whether the national pharmacist shortage is over, since there are unknown factors such as healthcare reform that must be considered. What I do know is that in order to plan appropriately for all stakeholders, we need to quantify the numbers when we talk about a pharmacist shortage.

What are your thoughts on the pharmacist shortage?

Send your comments to drugtopics@advanstar.com and we will present them in an upcoming issue.

David D. Trang, PharmD, MBA, is assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Feik School of Pharmacy, University of the Incarnate Word. He can be reached by e-mail at trang@uiwtx.edu
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The opinions expressed by guest editorial writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Drug Topics' staff or the staff of Advanstar Communications.