Finger on the pulse

Most pharmacy students are happy with their choice of degree, but many are also worried about poor salary and discount pharmacies

More than 80% of pharmacy students across Australia say that their choice to study pharmacy has been satisfying so far, according to NAPSA’s latest National Pharmacy Students’ Survey (NPSS).

With 288 respondents, the survey was run last year and closed on the 14 December 2018, with the results shared during NAPSA Congress in Adelaide last week.

NAPSA is currently in the second year of a five-year longitudinal study to observe the changing views of Australian pharmacy students.

A large proportion of survey participants (75.8%) said they were currently employed in some capacity of community pharmacy.

However despite the reasonably high satisfaction rate with the choice to study pharmacy (81.7%), a lower proportion (64%) say they would recommend the degree to others.

A similar amount (64.7%) indicate their opinion of pharmacy has changed for the better since beginning their studies.

The greatest issues facing the profession, as perceived by students, were “poor salary” (37.15%) and “discount pharmacies” (20.14%).

“In fact, the concern over pay increased by 10% over the past 24 months,” NAPSA Executive Director Joshua Hogben told NAPSA Congress delegates in Adelaide on Friday.

“In regards to pay raise, this is something that we as the board at NAPSA would love to advocate for the future and really make a case for.”

About 14% of pharmacy students were also concerned about the oversupply of pharmacists.

Source: NAPSA/Joshua Hogben.

There are some positive trends though: Mr Hogben said that since 2017, NAPSA has seen a 5.4% drop in concerns about the struggle for identity in healthcare provision.

“A lot of advocacy from the pharmacy professional bodies does lean into that area, and I think seeing ourselves as the medication experts has really helped us,” he said.

Addressing NAPSA Congress delegates in his closing address on Sunday, PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman reaffirmed the PSA’s strategy to tackle remuneration, alongside roles and recognition.

“I want to see all pharmacists practising to their full potential and fulfilling genuine patient need,” said Dr Freeman.

“We have a vision for the profession heading over the next five years, and part of that goal is to advance the three ‘R’s: roles, recognition and remuneration.

“You as pharmacists deserve to be paid for a fair’s day work based on your expertise, your training and your responsibility as a health professional. Our members always tell me that remuneration is their biggest issue, which makes it the PSA’s biggest issue also.”

Dr Freeman said the PSA will soon be releasing a remuneration report, which will outline the state of play and where remuneration in Australia should be for pharmacists.

What are the career ambitions of pharmacy students?

Pharmacy students want to get deeply involved in the pharmacy industry, and not just work in peripheral fields, according to the NPSS results.

The top three career ambitions in the next five years for pharmacy students were:

  1. Hospital pharmacy
  2. Community Pharmacy
  3. General Practice Pharmacist

Interest in hospital pharmacy slightly increased from 44.37% in 2017 to 45.14% in 2018.

The number of pharmacy students interested in entering community pharmacy rose sharply, from 31.79% in 2017 to 38.89% in 2018.

And those with ambitions to become a general practice pharmacist went from 2.98% in 2017 to 3.47% in 2018.

The bottom three career ambitions in the next five years for pharmacy students were:

  1. Politics
  2. Regulatory affairs
  3. Government
Source: NAPSA/Joshua Hogben.

Despite 45.1% of participants saying they wanted a career in hospital pharmacy, only 5.9% felt fully prepared to apply.

About 78% of participants said they would be keen to undertake a hospital pharmacy residency following registration as a pharmacist.

In regards to pharmacy internships:

  • 18.3% are interested in a rural setting
  • 23.9% are interested in a regional setting
  • 56.4% are interested in a metropolitan setting
  • 1.4% are interested in a remote setting.

Overall, 74.6% of NPSS participants thought that the two greatest perceived barriers to working as a pharmacist in a non-metropolitan area were “distance from family and friends” and “lifestyle sacrifices”, consistent with previous years.

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  1. Paul Sapardanis

    Poor salary and discount pharmacies are one and the same. For a discount pharmacy to work it must pay you a poor salary.

  2. Fear of discounts from future professionals? Separate the remuneration for Pharmacists from the cost of the items dispensed and work for a professional fee per prescription item dispensed funded by the PBS and subsidised by regulated patient contributions. Work only for a professional fee (and potential fees for other primary health services) and get away from the battle for a margin. Move away from the continual subsidising of an inefficient PBS where the approved Pharmacist funds the inventory cost plus the costs of shrinkage of that expensive capital outlay. Let the Government own and manage it and let the discounts come from the Drug manufacturers and no longer from we the profession. Once united by this new fairer system we need only negotiate on the fee increases in the future and its ability to remunerate commensurate with our professional services. If the Government requires adjustment to costs or contributions received by the patients then they should use the leverage on price control to vary the patient contribution according to what they believe the patients would find reasonable but also seek cost cutting from the Drug Companies not us any more!

    • Paul Sapardanis

      Problem is that discounters will discount the fee payable for the service

      • We would negotiate that all PBS items no matter what their cost could not be discounted. Even this ridiculous $1 discount on patient contributions that we somehow sleep-walked into since 2016. There is a way to do it and it should be modeled so that the many possible variations can be tested.

        • Paul Sapardanis

          That might be fine for claimable prescriptions but not for non claimable prescriptions. With price disclosure a greater percentage of prescriptions have become non claimable. In metropolitan Melbourne I am of the belief that most pharmacies would make more money o n claimable prescriptions even if the $1 discount than they do on non claimable prescriptions due to discounting. When less than 20% of your money comes from dispensing than its easy to use this as a marketing tool to generate foot traffic for your general retail offering. Whats the solution????

          • 31/01/2019

            Firstly, don’t have the majority of your money coming from retail. The traditional models were 70:30 or 60:40 Dispensary to Retail in Gross sales. That might be reversed in the discounters but they have that game so you need to change yours to focus on the Pharmacist influenced Sales : Dispensary and services and advice based sales. There are ways to do this but you often have to recognise that after costs your retail component cannot remain competitive. I have one suggested option to solve this on my website (Pharmacy) but that is a whole other story.
            What I am banging on about here Paul is that we as a profession have to start dispensing for a FEE only. In that proposal EVERYTHING is fee claimable. You get paid the same fee if you dispense an expensive item or a non-expensive item – everything listed on the PBS (including what you now refer to as non-claimable) regardless of what category of patient is being served by your professional service – DISPENSING. No price to a patient can be discounted and you mandate this by collecting this money on behalf of the Government (a bit like GST) who deduct this amount from the accumulated FEES they owe you for every item dispensed. The Patient Contribution becomes a consumer/patient Tax if you like. That money belongs to the Government and the Government dictates the price to the patient on every item. The Government also owns the Dispensary stock and has the ability to negotiate discounts from the Drug Manufacturers. We have carried the can for too long on the very high inventory costs of holding stock of Medicines on the CHANCE that they will be ordered on prescription. Wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t have to find the replacement costs of goods sold (dispensed) each month to the wholesaler; or couldn’t you use that $100K plus of money you have currently sitting on your dispensary shelves?

  3. Rural Pharmacist

    Advancing practice is only going to make things worse. 4 year uni degree +1 year internship + intern training program + oral exam + written exam + 1 year post grad “clinical” degree for any hospital job + 2 year “residency” + now Advancing practice credentialling for low wages. Going to push a lot of good talent into other professions with less regulation and far better pay. Staring down the barrell of that if I was a student I’d go do something else

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