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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