A career survey has found most pharmacists and interns are generally satisfied with current employment opportunities… but it’s not all sunshine and roses either
In mid-2016 pharmacy researchers from the University of Canberra and the Queensland University of Technology surveyed more than 300 pharmacists and interns, the results of which have been published this month in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research.
Their aim was to explore Australian pharmacists’ and interns’ satisfaction and perspectives on current employment opportunities, with follow-up interviews conducted to further explore survey findings.
Of 306 individuals who completed the survey, 83% were pharmacists and 17% were interns.
The majority (71%) were younger than 35 years, and most were early career pharmacists with 10 years or less experience.
However about a third of respondents had been registered for more than 10 years.
Two-thirds of participants were female (67%), similar to data from the Pharmacy Board of Australia (61% female).
Responding to Likert-scale ratings, Australian pharmacists and interns reported high satisfaction with their current employment – with most responding as “satisfied” following by “very satisfied”.
Satisfaction with professional practice opportunities was also positive, although some comments were made about employments prospects and opportunities that revealed “a negative undertone”, say the researchers.
“There is a disparity between the free-text comments and the Likert-scale results, where participants made negative comments in free-text fields, yet rated themselves as ‘satisfied’ in the Likert-scales,” they write.
Pressure to do more
Some hospital pharmacists expressed concerns about being “overworked, understaffed and with huge pharmacist-to-patient ratio” – in one case, as large as 90 patients to one pharmacist.
Many also described “long hours, no breaks and overtime”.
A few community pharmacists also cited “pressure to do more, and that employers expect an unsafe number of dispensing from staff with long hours”.
Twenty-six participants expressed concerns with workloads.
A job market dominated by networking
Many respondents reported that the pharmacy employment marketplace was “dominated” by personal networks rather than job opportunities based on merit.
According to follow-up interviews conducted by researchers, interviewees reported getting their current job through networking events, placements, working already in the same pharmacy group, getting involved in pharmacy organisations, and ‘just getting their name out there’.
Survey results showed the majority of participants worked full time in the pharmacy profession, with just 20% working part-time.
Nearly half (49%) of both pharmacists and interns had secured their current position in less than a month.
Three per cent of respondents were unemployed.
Lower pay rates than expected
The majority of pharmacists and interns reported a lower salary than expected, although most had not negotiated for a better salary.
Some expressed disappointment that “pharmacists and interns are being given such poor wages, considering the responsibilities they hold and the years of university they have completed”.
“The power is with the employer at the moment and pharmacists and interns don’t feel like they have the grounds to negotiate for a better salary as the employer will just hire someone who will accept the offer as is,” said another.
An unwillingness to move
While some respondents negatively commented on excess student numbers entering the profession, others acknowledged a problem with pharmacists’ reluctance to move into rural and remote locations.
Some pointed out that competition in the job market is not an issue in these regions, and conceded there was a shortage of pharmacists in these areas.
Participants said “people are not willing to move to regional or remote areas due to a fear of a potential inability to obtain a position in a city when they decide to return”.
The survey showed 70% of interns and 75% of pharmacists have not changed primary residence specifically for the purpose of employment.
“Many pharmacists admit that there are jobs in rural areas and more opportunities, but they are unwilling to move,” say the researchers.
“There is an uneven spread of workforce in Australia, with pharmacists and interns alike not wanting to move to fill those gaps.”
Student body NAPSA says that the general high satisfaction reported by pharmacists and interns is encouraging.
“It is very positive to see the recent survey results indicate that pharmacists and interns have high satisfaction rates with current employment,” says NAPSA president Sandra Minas.
“These results to some degree correlate to current pharmacy students.
“There has been a clear shift in the role and scope of practice of pharmacists, as well as an increase in enthusiasm towards the future of the profession,” says Ms Minas.
“As such students are also becoming more positive. It is this positivity that will guide and create a future of pharmacy that students desire.
“Students are also becoming more aware of the unique opportunities pharmacists now have to be able to provide the best healthcare possible for the community.
“Overall, high satisfaction within the profession means that students are able to seek greater guidance and advice from these pharmacists as mentors, without having a negative influence.
“With this positive guidance students are becoming more passionate and excited towards the future profession.”