MAY 01, 2006

The next 10 years could see a shift in the pharmacy industry. A survey of 1470 pharmacists revealed that a shortage looms, as aging male practitioners retire and workers of both genders choose part-time over full-time work, according to a study by the Pharmacy Manpower Project Inc.

Almost 46% of the practicing pharmacists are now female—up from 31% in 1990 and rising slightly since 2000. Of these women, >25% are working part-time. The survey also showed that pharmacists—particularly men—are getting older on average. More than 40% of the male pharmacists are over 55, compared with just 10% of the female pharmacists. Furthermore, the survey indicated that, overall, both full-and part-time pharmacists—in all pharmacy practice settings—are working less than they did 4 years ago, while earning an average of 38% more for their time.

The shrinking workforce is problematic, as the need for prescription services continues to rise. During their workday, pharmacists want more time to focus on patient care, beyond just filling prescriptions. The respondents indicated that nearly half of their time is spent filling prescriptions, much as it was in 2000. Patient consultation takes up 19% of pharmacists' time, followed by business management (16%) and drug-use management (13%).

Of the respondents, >1 of every 2 reported that workload was high or excessively high, with 58% saying that their workload had increased over the prior year. Stress also was a factor. Pharmacists blamed inadequate staff, workloads that may hamper the level of service they can provide, problems with difficult patients, and interruptions by individuals and phone calls.