Wages, discount pharmacies pressing concerns for students

Pharmacy students share thoughts on profession in new survey, with nearly 60% reporting negative COVID-19 impact on studies

Pay rates remain the biggest concern for Australian pharmacy students upon entering the profession, according to findings from the National Pharmacy Students Survey (NPSS) 2020.

Wages have been a consistent concern for several years in the annual NPSS Survey, with the most recent findings released during NAPSA Congress held this week from 22-28 January.

Students additionally cited the increasing presence of discount pharmacies and concerns about career advancement as significant issues.

Nearly 250 pharmacy students responded to the survey, with about 74% currently employed in a community pharmacy. 

Survey findings showed that approximately two in five students believe that they do not receive adequate exposure to hospital pharmacy during their studies to prepare them for hospital employment.

This figure remains consistent with findings from 2018 and 2019.

However when comparing results with last year’s survey, there is a notable increase in disagreement that adequate guidance is being provided to students for applying for hospital employment.

Approximately 40% of students still believe they do not receive enough guidance for applying for hospital employment.

While hospital pharmacy and community pharmacy remain the two most popular career pathways, results show that interest in ‘research’ and ‘manufacturing’ had more than tripled in comparison to the last year’s results.

“Students are continually becoming increasingly aware of other fields within the pharmacy profession,” said NAPSA.

Nearly 60% of students believe that undertaking a rural placement during their studies should be mandatory.

For those who had undertaken a rural placement, 81% believed that it positively swayed them to consider a rural practice and 100% believed that their rural placement met their expectations.

Despite these figures, when asked to consider internship location, only 42% of students voted rural, regional or remote as the most appealing location – with less than 1% choosing remote.

“The results of the 2020 NPSS allow us to highlight areas we wish to really focus our attention to in the near future,” said NAPSA President, Ethan Kreutzer.

“We began the groundwork for helping students explore non-traditional pathways in 2020 and this will continue into 2021.”

The survey results also indicated that 56% of students believed COVID-19 has negatively impacted on their studies.

Common themes related to this impact included lack of social interaction with peers, loss of motivation, cancellation of practicals and cancellation/modification of placements.

Students who said COVID-19 has positively impacted their study cited increased accessibility to materials online, preference for online learning and more free time allowing for more casual/part-time pharmacy work.

“We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students in vastly different ways across the country,” said Mr Kreutzer.

“We hope that both students and universities are learning and adapting to ensure best possible outcomes are still achieved for all, as tertiary education delivery will remain forever changed going forward.”

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