COMMENTARY

The Pharmacist Shortage: Where Do We Stand?

Charlotte A. Kenreigh, PharmD; Linda Timm Wagner, PharmD

Disclosures

January 13, 2006

In This Article

Many Positions Remain Unfilled

On the basis of the current ADI survey data,[1] a solid majority of states (34) are still experiencing some difficulty filling open positions for pharmacists. Balanced supply and demand is evident in only 16 states. In fact, current survey results indicate that the majority of the US population live in areas that report at least a moderately high difficulty in filling pharmacist positions.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) conducted a survey in the summer of 2005 via email. Although the response rate was fairly low, the survey uncovered some interesting information.[3] The average vacancy rate reported for pharmacist positions was 6.2%. This rate reflected an increase from 5% in 2004, but it is lower than the highest rate recorded (8.9% in 2000). The pharmacist technician vacancy rate has remained steady since 2002, and the current rate 3.9%.

Pharmacy directors were surveyed to determine their perceptions about the availability of qualified staff for various pharmacy positions, including manager, clinical coordinator, clinical specialist, entry-level and experienced frontline pharmacists, and entry-level and experience pharmacy technicians.

With the exception of entry-level technicians, pharmacy directors indicated high unmet demand for all of the positions. The perception of extreme shortage was highest for experienced frontline pharmacists; this number rose from 45% in 2004 to 54% in 2005. However, the number is lower than the peak in 2002 (67%).

The perception of a shortage in management candidates was especially high, up from 74% in 2004 to 84% in 2005. Pharmacy leaders have expressed concern that a lack of quality managers could negatively impact the profession.

The ASHP survey also found that the average length of time to hire a pharmacist has continued to increase, lasting on average about 6.5 months in 2005, up from 5.3 in 2004. The average recruiting time was longer in rural settings than in suburban settings, at 8.2 months vs 5.6 months, respectively.

Another survey, conducted by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation in the summer of 2005, revealed that about 59% of the current chain pharmacies participated in the survey.[2] A total of 5971 vacant pharmacist positions were reported (4971 full-time and 1000 part-time). That number was similar to the January 2005 rate, but higher than rates reported since July 2002. The peak vacancy rate for this survey occurred in August 2001, with a total of 7743 open positions. It now appears that open positions are on the upward trend again.

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