Survey Highlights Shifting Face of Pharmacy

The 2009 National Pharmacist Workforce Survey found pharmacists in high demand for activities ranging from patient care services to business management.

Despite the effects of the 2008-2009 recession on all sectors of the economy, pharmacists remain in high demand, according to recent data from the 2009 National Pharmacist Workforce Survey. As part of the study, researchers from the Pharmacy Manpower Project surveyed a random sample of 3000 licensed pharmacists and, when possible, compared responses from 2009 with those collected in 2000 and 2004.

Following are 5 key findings highlighted in the Pharmacy Manpower Project’s executive summary on the study, which focused on the impact of the economy, women, and aging pharmacists on changes in the pharmacy field: (1) More part-time professionals. The proportion of pharmacists working full-time decreased from 73.3% in 2000 to 67.4% in 2009, whereas the proportion of pharmacists working part-time (< 30 hours per week) increased from 14.9% in 2000 to 20.9% in 2009.

(2) A heavy but diverse workload. In 2009, 68% of pharmacists said their work level was high or excessively high, compared with only 54% in 2004. Pharmacists performed a wide variety of job functions, dedicating 55% of their time to dispensing medications, 16% to patient care services, 14% to business management activities, 5% to continuing education, 4% to research, and 5% to other activities.

(3) Higher education, bigger debts. In 2009, 21.6% of respondents reported holding a PharmD, as opposed to 13.9% in 2000. Coinciding with higher education levels came an increase in student loan debt, with less experienced, full-time pharmacists (<5 years) reporting an average of $79,895 of student debt upon graduation from pharmacy school and $61,667 of current student loan debt.

(4) Gender trends. The proportion of actively practicing female pharmacists rose to 46.4 % in 2009, compared with 44.8% in 2000 and 31% in 1990. Women younger than 65 were more likely to report working part-time than men, however, and a majority of full-time workers in all practice settings were male. Consistent with previous years, fewer women own pharmacies than men, although more recent data suggest that gap has begun to close. In 2009, 11.6% of men and 8.1% of women were pharmacy owners or held partner positions, compared with 10.9% of men and only 2.3% of women in 2004.

(5) Aging workforce. As of 2009, 40% of retirement-age pharmacists (60 years and older) are still actively practicing, compared with only 29% in 2000. Only a quarter of older pharmacists said they were retired and did not practice, compared with 34% in 2000. In a report accompanying the study, researchers attribute this change to high wages, which have helped seniors “deal with downturns in the stock market, the nature of trends in funding pension plans, availability of health insurance, and out-of-pocket costs associated with health insurance.”

Importantly, the study did not include data from pharmacists licensed after 2007, who may significantly impact the face of the pharmacy workforce in the coming years.

Researchers involved in the investigation are hopeful about the future of pharmacy, according to the American Pharmacists Association, which conducted a panel to interpret the results at its annual meeting earlier this month. Lead investigator Jon C. Schommer, PhD, of the University of Minnesota, said that, based on the project’s findings, “the pharmacy profession currently has, and will continue to build, capacity for contributing to the reforming health care system to meet patient care needs that are rooted in improving the effectiveness, safety, and value of medication therapy.” For other articles in this issue, see:

Pharmacists Key in Treatment of Hypertension

NCPA Initiative Targets Unsafe Drug Disposal

Pharmacy Advocates Deliver Change Health Care Reform: Pharmacy Perspectives