The division of labour

Opinions and concerns of pharmacy owners and employees now more divergent than ever before

There is now a wider gulf in the views of pharmacy owners and employee pharmacists than there has ever been, if the 2017 UTS Pharmacy Barometer is any guide.

The seventh iteration of the annual survey of the views of community pharmacists shows an increasing split between owners and employees on most issues.

Overall, confidence among respondents was up 5% from the 2016 survey (to the highest level in the seven years of the barometer). However there was a sharp divide within the profession, with owners’ confidence up from 5.5 to 5.9 out of 10 while employee pharmacists’ confidence was down from 5.29 to 5.13 out of 10.

Only 7% of employee pharmacists expressed optimism in the future viability of community-based pharmacy, compared to 15% of owners and owner managers. In contrast, 20% of employees expressed pessimism, compared to 12% of owners.

In almost all other measures, there was the same split in opinion between these groups. Owners and owner managers had the greatest level of confidence in the economic impact of the 6CPA. The latter group also had less optimism in the 6CPA on a professional level.

One of the most significant divides was in the answers to the question ‘How well prepared are you to deal with an OTC codeine abuser?’ While 56% of owners said they were prepared for this, only 43% of employed pharmacists agreed with this.

The opinion gap was even reflected in views on the impact of Primary Health Care Networks on pharmacy – with employed pharmacists more likely to foresee professional and economic impact.  

“The difference in levels of satisfaction between different types of pharmacist create a challenge for the profession,” said Professor Shalom (Charlie) Benrimoj, Professor of Pharmacy Practice and head of the UTS Graduate School of Health.

“How can the profession move forward when we employ people who feel terrible about the job they are doing in many cases? They’re not happy with the relatively poor wages. And owners are then expecting them to offer professional services on top of everything else.”

“2016 was the first year we noticed this split between owners and employees, and its got worse in 2017, not better,” Professor Benrimoj said.

Former PSA national president, Warwick Plunkett said, “owners and managers are happy obtaining more funding for the older CPA remunerated services while employees remain disappointed that their professional and remuneration opportunities have again been ignored.”


Previous Five travel health myths
Next Research Roundup

NOTICE: It can sometimes take awhile for comment submissions to go through, please be patient.


  1. Jason Huynh

    Honestly, I’m tired of pharmacy. For me personally, I find the future very bleak. As an ECP, I’m promised great riches by owners if I join up with them only to hear the disappointing reality. You get 70k for the next 5 years as a manager and the owners can’t even guarantee partnership. There’s constant calls for deregulation – so what’s the point of ownership. Even what some pharmacies call above award wage, is still a joke. $30/h and still expected to do professional services, weekends and nights with only a few extra dollars per hour.
    I’ve talked to owners and they’ve heard we hate our job, but what can they really do? I understand profits can’t be made in the dispensary any more and competition is fierce. What can do you when you have behemoths out there wanting total domination.
    Pharmacy is so unfair. You have to give up your life to get somewhere. I rather choose a happy life than chasing the minute opportunities left in pharmacy.

    • Andrew

      Hang in there Jason, change is coming. The current system isn’t sustainable and at some point will fail and need to be rebuilt. In the meantime advocate for the good stuff, point out the bad stuff, and write lots of letters to the people who matter/listen.

      • William

        Exactly who are these “people who matter” you suggest addressing these letters Andrew? It may help some people let off steam but disruption is coming nevertheless.

  2. William

    I would never recommend anyone to study and enter pharmacy these days. Sticking labels on cartons or bottles is hardly what most want. With the increasing healthcare costs to governments, the advancements of automation it will only be a matter of time until computerised and mechanised dispensaries will take their place as I have written before.
    One does not need a pharmacy degree to be a shop retailer so everyone choose his field of study very carefully.
    For those who are young and discontented I would suggest they change their job. Being angry and frustrated with pharmacy will not be helpful. Retrain at something you really enjoy.

    • Notachemist

      This is a very narrow view of pharmacy William. I have spent over 30 years as a pharmacist and have never spent time sticking labels on cartons or bottles.

      • William

        So you have some dispensary assistant do it for you?

        • Notachemist

          My focus when I am dispensing is to look at the whole picture of the patient and why they are taking the medication, whether the dose is safe and appropriate, looking for potential interactions or problems and what the patient needs to need to know. Every prescription tells a story which needs to be discovered through interaction with the patient, review of the history and review of the script itself. Likewise when a patient presents with symptoms or a product request this involves investigation and discussion as well as counselling and advice. There are also many other roles in pharmacy which do not involve dispensing but still require the many skills of a pharmacist.
          I agree that pharmacy is not for everyone and it is better to move away if you are not really enjoying your role. Our training and skills are very useful in many different career directions.

Leave a reply