Pharmacists want to run away

A majority of Australian pharmacists want to leave the profession, a poll suggests.

Medicine stands to be a major beneficiary if pharmacists follow through with their threat to leave the profession, an AJP poll suggests.

Around 1300 pharmacists voted in our poll, with 61% saying ‘Yes’ to the question “Are you considering leaving the profession”.

Another 21% said ‘maybe’, meaning four-fifths of the profession are currently reconsidering their future.

Many had moved, or were considering moving, to other areas of medical practice, according to comments received by AJP.

When asked by one respondent what those who were considering leaving the profession thought they would do as an alternative career, one respondent, Vicky, said “most of my friends have gone on to study medicine. One friend has gone on to become a dentist and another aerospace engineering!”

Another, Ash, said: “I’m in my final year of medicine – worked in pharmacy for 5 years and saw it going downhill. It’s sad how poorly retail pharmacy is thought of and it is an abysmal career choice. If I went back to customer service I would only be earning $2-3 less per hour than a pharmacist – but would be bored to tears”.

One respondent, Tanya, said poor working conditions for women with children was a key factor in her decision to move to accountancy.

“As a mum of three I can now actually work school hours and get paid a higher wage than as a pharmacist- without the stress and extreme demands. I have worked mostly unpaid in pharmacy for the past 4 years just to obtain the practice hours required for re-registering. Not anymore! I loved being a pharmacist but the opportunities are so narrow and paid work difficult to find for working mums”.

Another respondent said there was one thing keeping them in the profession: “The only thing stopping me is knowing that the ‘cheap’ pharmacies will then win, and where will that leave the customer who needs a chat, needs driving home because they’re confused, needs someone to take their BP and explain what its all about, needs someone to notice the constant injuries from ‘walking into doors’?

Its a really sad time for the profession and for those of us who love what we do but cannot see a sustainable future in it anymore”.

The Guild and PSA have been approached for comment, and any responses will be published in a later article. Go to our forum for further discussion on the issue. 


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  1. Owen Mellon

    Plenty of opportunity for the people who decide to embrace the challenge.

    • worried

      Would any of these increase the pharmacist pay and working conditions ?
      i had seen few posts in psa early career pharmacist facebook page people taking about positive side. i m even an optimistic person saying that we got super power like vaccination rights etc…. what ever rights we got can we use those right to pay the bills. In every profession there is growth in position but in pharmacy where you can go pharmacist—pic–pharmacist manager may be a couple of dollars more pay than pharmacist. Nothing much more than that. what ever we get like medschecks, vaccination etc the money goes to pharmacy owner so how does it can make a difference financially???
      A lot of people money is not everything needs to have professional satisfaction but that doesn’t help to pay bills, afford a house in future etc….. when your pay is stagnant..
      Guild tries all they can but to fill their own memeber pockets not to the poor employees who work to their bone making pharmacy sustainable in the tight pbs reductions era.

      Please enlighten me if i m wrong or if there are any ways which will give both professional and financial satisfaction as like the other professionals in the other streams of health profession.

      • Sahar Khalili

        I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said, which is why I decided to leave the profession over 2 years ago. Very sad.

      • The sun has set

        Your statement hits the nail on its head spot on. You just put my thoughts about the profession downfall into words. Bravo thanks.

        Re the comment “Plenty of opportunities for the people who decide to embrace the challenge” either you
        are new to Pharmacist profession or you are a pharmacy owner.

        Please enlighten us and share and explain your comment
        more in detail how to do that.

        Furthermore, I find Pharmacist skill sets are quite very
        limited to pharmacy practice only, there are not many transferable skills for us
        to move to other professions either.

        Congratulation to those managed to leave the pharmacist profession.

        • Good farmer

          At the moment we are poorly rapresented in negotiations. I believe pharmacists offer plenty of value to the healthcare system, and if propertly used could cut costs overall; however that would involve stepping on other professions turf.
          The PPA goes on about how underpaid and unfair the working conditions are; however pity wont inspire change. The focus should be on what we offer to the community and how we can cut $$$$$$$ to tax payers.
          “The owners” however, are doing a great job at keeping the system intact and are probably loughing at our whining and complaining

          • The sun has set

            Read the comment by worried its about pharmacist working
            condition, salary, lack of opportunity to progress etc.

            Your comment is beside the point, yes pharmacist can contribute to lots of cost cuts etc which we have been doing over many years.
            Pharmacies are primary health care provider and we have been the one that cope most of government cutting with agreements by the guild that serves the interests of pharmacy owner rather than the pharmacy profession.

            I agree with your point that we can offer some cost saving
            overall which has been happening but the shares of savings are not passed on to
            the working pharmacist. The pharmacist pay and working conditions are decreasing while work loads and responsibilities are increasing.

            Your comment about properly used could cut overall cost is
            also relevant to all other health professions. All health professions should
            play part in saving cost and our medicare.

        • Joseph

          I left the profession 3.5 years ago due to the oversupply of pharmacists.
          The hourly-rate for locums was dropping and recent graduates were prepared to accept ‘any’ work, even a few short (5-6 hour) days per week at lower rates than what I had been working for. I realized I would be better off doing ANY job for 40 hours a week rather than chasing higher-paid but intermittent locum work. With effort, I made the jump to a different career, completely unrelated to pharmacy or medical care.

          I no longer have the ‘prestigious’ title of Pharmacist, but in my new role I have a predictable full-time working week, 4 weeks holiday, public holidays, sick leave, superannuation, and less stress overall. I no longer have to pay for insurance, annual registration and professional body membership either.

          I read AJP occasionally out of interest and I would advise the newer graduates not to feel the pressure (from their peers and especially their parents) of having to find work as a pharmacist after completing 5 years of study (university + pharmacy internship).

          • the sun has long set

            Congratulation, you made it to a saver boad. What is the point of staying in a sinking titanic unless you are the captain of the ship the choice is your to stay and go down with it or jump on a rescue raft.
            Most of the general public thinks pharmacist profession has this glamorous prestige not knowing that its a sinking ship. For those who thinks its sensible to stay well good luck when the ship hits the bottom of the ocean. Stay till the end to save the profession is good but what good does it do if the profession is divided not united to make a difference. We have pharmacy owner that serves their own inetrest, our representative of the industry are not doing an efficient job to represent the voice of the majority to address the current desperate issue, the government is another challenge and worst there are now way too many universities that offer pharmacy degree. The number of graduates comming out each year is just insane given the number of pharmacies out there.
            I’ve seen graduates comming in search for internship almost everyday. That tells you how desperate it is, many of them even were willing to work for free if they were given the opportunity to do the internship. The ship sinks not because of ice berg but more likely of overcowding.
            I like being a pharmacist and utilise my expert knowledge in pharmacy practice. Reality is not always how it is as we were trained at uni or to pass pharmacy examinarion board (pharmacy board ie AHPRA etc either have their eye half shut or they really are ignorant about how pharmacy industry is doing. All they care about is collecting revenue for registration fee, all sort of application fees, non-practicing fee, and so on.
            In the end they all only care about their own finacial interest to makes end meet. The pharmacist, with years of study and hard work to get registered, is the one that get left out in this rat race. We are the one that cant find a job to make a leaving to buy a home, to provide our family and pay the bills.

  2. Michael

    I think the only solution for the current situation is to separate ownership from the profession.Stop pharmacists from owning pharmacies, because owner pharmacists usally represent us as pharmacists but they only care about their pockets. The second point is to develop strong bodies to stand for the pharmacy profession like PPA. The third point is to focus on pharmacy education and obtain highly qualified graduates who are actualy able to participate in disease management, patient treatment and education. One more point is to respect ourselves and the service we offer to patients and community.

    • Caroline

      At the moment, keeping ownership of pharmacies is the only thing stopping the profession from going down the toilet. Community pharmacies are businesses and even though owner pharmacists DO care about making money – as would any business owner – at least they know the profession and can appreciate and understand what is required from us. I fail to see how letting any Tom, Dick and Harry own pharmacies will benefit the profession at all. Non-pharmacist owners would have no concern for healthcare and would DEFINITELY only care about their bottom line. The way I see it, unless we stop these discount model pharmacies and media from dumbing our abilities down to “slapping a sticker on a box” and conditioning our patients to think that faster, cheaper and unpersonalised healthcare is the norm, there isn’t going to be any improvement.

      As a profession, we need to take stock for the kinds of conditions that we’re allowing ourselves to be trapped by. It seems that we’re more than happy to complain on pharmacist only forums, however, there is a shortage of us actually standing up for ourselves and this profession. Without pharmacists, healthcare would come to a standstill. WE are the ones catching the mistakes of doctors, yet they get all the praise. WE are the ones who counsel the patients on when and how to take their medications. WE are the first ones patients come to for advice. No one else can do what we do. I think it’s time we reminded ourselves, and everyone else of that fact.

  3. Gordon

    The AJP has decided to call it ‘run(ning) away’. Easy for the AJP to say that, when they are not the ones trying to work as actual pharmacists, rather than just writing about pharmacy. I would put this question to the person who said that if pharmacists want to leave the profession, they are ‘run(ning) away’ : if you study for years to join a ‘profession’ that turns out to be underpaid, has a job shortage and pharmacist oversupply, no chance of promotion or ownership, and is regulated more every year despite falling remuneration, how sensible is it to stay? Especially since there is no real agreement by the bodies governing student numbers, remuneration, regulation and professional representation of pharmacy, that the problems are even real. As a further example, how brave or sensible is it to remain in a house that has caught fire? Would that be running away too?

    • Man

      Spot on! Pharmacy is no different to a burning house, it’s about to collapse. The PPA or PSA haven’t really done anything substantial to increase the position of the employee pharmacist.
      Why isn’t their a strike? Why can’t we get independently remunerated ?

      I’m currently working towards greener pastors, the organizations who are at the pillors of pharmacy only care for themselves! It’s the survival of fittest type of world. We either all go on strike and show everyone that we demand change or we can as a group accept our fate!

  4. Rodney

    I am a pharmacy owner and have difficulty finding locums. Despite the touted oversupply, there don’t seem to be many any more. Whatever dollar rate per hour is on offer. I think a lot of people registered as pharmacists have left the profession already – at least the community pharmacy aspect of it, which is the bulk of it. You can probably maintain registration by working in a job distantly related to pharmacy, and doing your questionnaires each month. But it’s just a token back-up for those people. They aren’t coming back if they can help it.

  5. Norman

    It’s also very difficult to find trained pharmacy assistants. An employment agent recently called it a ‘dying trade’. If an assistant has been retrenched, and realises she can get more money at a supermarket than she was on as a pharmacy assistant, she usually won’t go back to pharmacy.

  6. Pharmacist

    Oh! So glad to find this article! I am not alone! I am not going crazy!

  7. FakeMoralOutrage

    Can’t blame them if you think about it.

    I am fortunate enough to still work as a locum for a pharmacy that still believes in all the lovely things we were taught at university and is operated by ethical, fair-minded proprietors who strive to do the right thing (and then some) by their staff. If Minister Ley happens to read this post, that’s three less votes your pack of mongrels will be getting in just a few short weeks !

    So, with all due respect to the proprietors who are doing the right thing by everyone around them, let’s look at a few core truths.

    1) The profession has now degenerated into what can only be described as a casual sales job. Anyone starting their B. Pharm studies today can expect to get paid about $30 an hour, for a few hours a week every now and then unless a full-timer resigns or moves on. An envelope under the keyboard for an urgent callout is rather nice, but can hardly be called neither a livelihood or a career.

    2) Pharmacists as a professional group deserve to be paid more and there are proprietors out there who would like to pay more to recruit and retain good pharmacists – BUT (!) pharmacies have had countless amounts of money stripped off their bottom line and there just isn’t the finances to offer more. Just remember, the landlord, suppliers, ATO and insurers get paid long before the staff ever do.

    3) The lack of career progression is equally concerning as there is little beyond the normal progression from Box Labeller to Pharmacist In Charge and then on to Pharmacist Manager………… and that’s about it. Partnership in a pharmacy carries more risks than benefits at the moment and probably warrants an ADEC “X” next to it.

    4) Niche roles in advanced clinical services are an excellent way to differentiate yourself from the others but the lack of payment and/or time taken to be paid makes it more of an adjunct to a job than a career in itself (cf HMR payment delays). It is also interesting to note that the bright-minded thinkers who continually spruik the “diversification” line are strangely silent when asked for tips and ideas.

    To make matters worse, any new professional services are immediately undercut by a well-known chain so even the most useful services (eg: flu vaccinations and Medchecks) are devalued overnight and soon become part of a day’s work, absorbed by proprietor and pharmacist alike.

    5) The amount of out-of-pocket costs to be a pharmacist is quite high considering the very ordinary salaries earned or the irregular nature of locum work. There’s PDL insurance, PSA membership, other miscellaneous training courses and the yearly insult of paying $330 to AHPRA just to confirm your address and that you haven’t been struck off yet.

    Compare that to other professions where CPD is either paid for by the employer either partly or in full or perhaps salary-sacrificed in order to allow the employee to become more productive whilst furthering their career. That plus the fact that many other professions pay their employees whilst on training as opposed to pharmacists who do their CPE after hours on the kitchen table at night.

    6) Anyone in pharmacy can only expect their hourly rate + super. That’s it. Other professions have been known to offer combinations of things such as CPE (see above), health insurance, income protection insurance, bonuses, superannuation top-ups, maternity leave and all sorts of other allowances like gym memberships and transport vouchers whilst pharmacists as a community work through Schrodinger’s Lunchbreak. (Look it up).

    7) Unless you have spent the last few years comatose on supposedly destroyed palliative care S8 returns, the glut of graduates need not be discussed in detail. If you do need clarification, please have a Naloxone shot and rejoin 2016 .

    8) Pharmacy is probably one of a very small number of professions that have somehow accepted more work for the same amount of pay, if not a little less. Wages quite simply have not kept up with time for reasons already mentioned and every time I hear the phrase “New Guild Initiative”, it just adds to the workload with barely a few dollars in it for the business and merely becomes another task to worry about.

    9) We all have our favourite Whipping Boy to blame; be it the Guild, the PSA, the Government, PPA and also ourselves to a degree for not being as militant as other healthcare representative bodies. Take your pick and offload on whoever you think is responsible – its been pretty ordinary all round.

    10) Beware the fact that the Government is also looking to cut pharmacy loose from the Commonwealth funding pool. Remember that we administer not only primary care but also a very large proportion of PBS responsibility, paid in part by pharmacy proprietors. Therefore, its in the Government’s interests to minimise payments to the pharmaceutical profession as recent events have shown. Remuneration has fallen but the responsibilities have risen.

    So, where to from here you may ask ?

    If you are single, find an understanding partner as you will need the second income to make the repayments on any loans you may take out or to help provide a reasonable upbringing for any children you may have. You will also need a kind soul to talk to as the frustrations build from the sad, over regulated state of affairs and the frustration of knowing other professions offer better remuneration and/or opportunities while you wait for the phone to ring. My age, finances, family commitments and medical issues are preventing me from making any bold moves; but if you are capable of doing so – make sure you do !

    Beware the apparent Panacea of studying medicine too…. Universities don’t care how many graduates they produce as long as they get paid to do so and it may be a matter of time before countless ex-pharmacists start complaining on medical forums about the lack of job opportunities.

    It will get a lot worse before it eventually gets better and I take my hat off to the true believers who will stay the course. Let’s hope for your sake that its worth it. In the meanwhile, remember that our primary role is to administer primary care and prevent medication-related misadventures. We also owe it to our colleagues to at least listen and offer some moral support until the dust settles.

    Thank you for your time in reading this homily, I am sure I speak for many others who may not be able to speak up for reasons unknown.

    • United we stand

      God I have tears in my eyes reading this post. I’ve saved it for future reference. Thanks and Godspeed my dear friend. May we find a light at the end of this dark tunnel some day.

      • Pharmacist


      • FakeMoralOutrage

        Thank you for your kind comments. I can only hope that the others also find a way out of this mess.

    • Big John

      Point number 8, well done! Why have pharmacists had to accept more workload for LESS income? Even owners. Because the Government has said so. And it’s only going to get worse. Over the next 12-24 months pharmacist workloads are really going to blow out as more is expected of them; for effectively less pay.
      One point you haven’t mentioned: Don’t forget the private health insurance companies and wholesalers waiting on the side to buy out pharmacy once it becomes deregulated (not just Woolworths & co.). The whole industry is in the hands of those that seek to squeeze it for every penny and those that have shareholders to answer to. And this shouldn’t be the case. As long as pharmacy is weak and bends over to the will of the Government and to its very own wholesalers even, then it shall be easily conquered by the corporate few.
      Pharmacy as a profession should be writing the rules. It should be stand up strongly to those that seek to injure it. It only has a slim chance, with the right leadership, to be successful.

      • FakeMoralOutrage

        Too late, Big John.

        “He who pays the piper, calls the tunes”. If the wholesalers continue to act as guarantors or financiers for those wanting to establish a pharmacy, then the entire profession is at their mercy. Likewise as long as the government of the day (irrespective of party) controls PBS remuneration and approval number provision, we will simply do our masters’ bidding.

        That said, I agree fully that as a profession we should stand up against these two organisations but they are also the very two organisations that we currently (!) depend on. After all, it is unwise to bite the hand that feeds.

  8. Leah Rosevear

    Why work (if you can get any) when you get paid such a poor amount after all that training (which is underutilised as the number of scripts processed per day prohibits getting out and talking/counselling people). My daughter gets more money working in a shoe shop; and while there is nothing wrong with that she doesn’t have the life/death responsibility if she makes a mistake. I have been back in Tasmania for 5 months; applied for multiple positions and received no reply. I am doing locum work interstate to keep my head above water. I can’t go back to Uni and do dentistry, medicine etc. as I have a family to support and it is too late in life for me. I will probably end up doing disability and/or aged care as I can divert my caring to those roles and there is work about locally. I have become very disillusioned with community pharmacy generally and am predominantly doing hospital locums.

  9. John Sobkowiak

    Its a sad sign of the times when I see a job advertised in a remote town where I worked for $40 p.h. back in 2004 advertised today in 2016 (12 years later) at $42 p.h.
    This website shows that, in today’s financial terms, my $40 p.h. back in 2004 is now worth $53.35.

    If the figures are reversed to make today’s $42 p.h. equivalent to a pay rate back in 2004 , little Johnny pharmacist would have been working for an hourly rate of just $31.48.

  10. Ahmed

    Worked in almost all models,
    small pharmacies are just an abuse , flat rate and realized didn’t pay me super , no stable roster, you can’t get sick , you can’t get tired , no breaks ,and if u go for a long leave most likely you won’t find your job when u come back.
    Discount models , shit pay , loads of work to the point that you will either kill someone with a mistake or get a heart attack, and most of the times I find my conditions are a lot worse than a dispensary tech , at least he just focuses on what he is doing, but I have to answer questions, answer the phone, deal with complaints, record pseudo , do orders ……. and dispense 150 scripts alone a day ..

    Seriously I can’t wait unti I find something enables me to quit this profession.

  11. depressed pharmacist

    I have plan to return to university to get out from the profession

  12. ByeByePharmacy

    I’ve just about had it too. I went to get my script for antibiotics yesterday, I left the script with the pharmacist (who asked me nothing), and went to the supermarket. When I came back to collect my antibiotics, the pharmacy assistant had them waiting for me at the cash register ready to go. Just as I was putting my credit card back in my wallet, thinking I was about to leave with absolutely no questions or counselling from the pharmacist about my antibiotics, I heard a voice from the back of the shop, in the fishbowl dispensary. “Do you want any probiotics with that?” – um, no thanks but now I may need some pain killers for the jaw pain I’m about to get from clenching it. That was it. Same pharmacy about a year earlier, I was getting a prescription for sertraline. Again, there was no counselling, but the caring pharmacist did ask me whether I’d like a vitamin B supplement to help with my stress levels. And the caring pharmacy assistant, after looking at the box of medication, said “Oh are these antidepressants? My daughter has terrible depression and she took something called St John’s Wort. Would you like to try some of that?” I was this close to reporting that incident to AHPRA but figured it wasn’t worth the hassle and paperwork. Makes me ashamed to be in the profession. I feel embarrassed that I’m a pharmacist now. The ‘prestige’ is far gone. Yep, I’m going into network marketing instead. Even though I’ve done two pharmacy degrees, my undergrad pharmacy and masters degrees, spent thousands on my career, it’s just not making me happy. Bye Bye!

    • william so

      About the St John’s Work, I would talk to the pharmacy manager just so she won’t kill the next person by drug interactions. Yeah… seen some unsatisfactory pharmacy assistants in my career…. ” The difference between Panadol & Panadeine?… Just the colour of the boxes.. (SERIOUSLY TRUE… that person got fired.)”

      • chris

        Some doctors would agree with that sales assistant. Maybe she should be given more credit.

    • M M

      KPIs KPIs KPIs

  13. Radhika Reddy

    In some respects I am happy that pharmacists are considering leaving the profession. I moved to Australia from NZ last year and after getting my registration here I have applied for many jobs. I have 13 years experience as a pharmacist and have even managed a pharmacy in NZ. Only one person was kind enough to call me (he sounded positive but unfortunately because I prefer to work evenings and weekends because I have kids he could not take me on). I have even asked around neighbouring pharmacies if I could volunteer but they aren’t interested. So I too have been thinking about leaving the profession …but puts my mind at ease knowing that people who are already working here as pharmacists aren’t happy so I should just accept that the next job I choose will perhaps be more rewarding.

    • GetOutOfthisUselessCareer

      Reception work pays more then Pharmacy. Pharmacy is a dead end career unless Mom or Dad own a pharmacy and you get to become the owner despite not being that great a pharmacist. Nepotism is rife and ability and effort are not rewarded.
      Why would anyone be bothered staying in such a stressful and horrible job that pays so little in a dead end career.
      All Pharmacy Students and EAP’s should leave pharmacy now if they are seeing any of the very few opportunities (none of these are in Community Pharmacy) and do something with more prospects..
      As a receptionist, I earn $28 per hour and leave on time with no stress. This is extra time and energy is helping me do another degree so that I can leave the low paid dead end career that is pharmacy behind.. Good riddance

  14. Robert

    “Embrace the Challenge” – the only person who will make money out of that option is the consultant flogging the “Embrace the Challenge” message….

  15. 13 Things

    Pharmacists are sick of:
    1. Being told to do more CI’s and Medscheks, loyalty signups, SMS/Medadvisor and meeting targets thereof.
    2. Having to recommend generics (how many pharmacists have encountered a poorly made generic tab/cap?).
    3. Told that they need to go rural to find a job.
    4. Recommending add-on sales of products that have no proven benefit.
    5. Recommending add-on sales full stop.
    6. Processing hundreds of Rxs per day like a machine in an understaffed pharmacy.
    7. Being pushed to sell S3s with off-label use (even though their boss is a devout PSA member).
    8. Having to check DAAs, ridiculous MPS processes and dealing with nursing homes all the while doing the above.
    9. Never being offfered a pay-rise even though more services are loaded on to them.
    10. Listening to proganda and rhetoric from the head office who are unqualified and likely have never worked in the front line before only in the end to have to fix mistakes made by these people.
    11. Dealing with the layers and layers of unecessary complexity daily that the profession imposed on itself.
    12. Out of stocks. (HIGHLY damaging to business but no one has a solution or compensation solution).
    13. Wondering if they should have just done medicine instead.

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