What’s in it for me?

Pharmacists are increasingly vocal in their complaints about pay and conditions, especially in the community sector 

Pharmacy has proved its value, indeed its necessity, to the Australian public and government repeatedly over the past 18 months or so.

The unprecedented series of crises and disasters we’ve faced have shown how indispensable a community pharmacy network, and a hospital pharmacist workforce is to the nation’s health.

And as we all know, pharmacists are playing an ever greater clinical role, in an ever widening scope of practice. This is all to the good as people’s skills, education and training are put to the uses they are there for.

However, all this will be to naught if the current abysmally low rates of pay continue to fester as an issue for the profession, especially in community pharmacy.

In early March, the issue of pay rates for employed pharmacists again raised its head with a PPA report showing pharmacy graduates had the lowest average rate of pay.

Earlier this year, a Monash University study showed that the number of registered, working pharmacists in Australia is growing at a substantially lower rate than the total of all other registered health professions. And student numbers are starting to fall.

On top of that, anecdotal reports keep coming in of pharmacists leaving the sector or moving within the sector away from community pharmacy. Many of those with knowledge of this area have told me that they are concerned that many of the best and brightest students are actively not choosing to go down the community pharmacy route.

We were flooded with comments in response to our online coverage of the PPA report, none of which were in any way pleasant reading for those concerned about the sector.

None of this bodes well if we want a skilled, plentiful pharmacist workforce that’s ready and equipped to take on these new and expanding clinical roles.

I know pharmacy owners are doing it tough, but they’ll be doing it a lot tougher if none of their employed pharmacists are willing and able to perform vaccinations or other clinical roles. People certainly won’t be willing if these tasks are added to their usual job load without any reward.

And this is without even mentioning the role of discounters… That’s one for another day….

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  1. Ex-Pharmacist

    For pharmacists that are contemplating whether to stay or leave, I have to say that leaving the profession was the best decision I’ve made.
    For pharmacist that have to stay because of their specific circumstances. I really respect you all and it’s very commendable doing a selfless work despite the struggles.

    • Jacquie Tsimbinos

      Can I ask what you are doing now instead of pharmacy?

      • Ex-Pharmacist

        I’m training to be a psychologist. I realised what I liked during my time as a pharmacist was to counsel people about their health, but felt it was extremely restricted due to time-pressure. I’m hoping to devote my attention to the mental health of clients.

  2. Paul Sapardanis

    Chris thank-you for a very insightful opinion piece. I too share your concern when it comes to introducing more professional services that do not create a financial benefit to anyone in thr pharmacy. Head offices of some banner groups I believe are having too much influence in the pricing of these services. Until some owners wake up to this then I’m afraid the status quo will remain

  3. Katrina Fanjul

    I had a pretty rough internship to say the least. As soon as I finished my internship, I went on a working holiday to Japan (thinking I would stay for six months and then return home). I ended up staying longer (it’s been four years now) and I’ve recently gotten married to a Japanese man. I work as an assistant professor at a medical school teaching clinical health topics alongside a doctor. I will also start a PhD in Public Health soon. I often think about going back to Aus to finally get some experience working registered but then I remember all of the stress/low pay/limited real clinical interactions. Community pharmacy was definitely not for me. Hospital or industry, possibly.

    Working at the medical school though has been wonderful, rewarding and very creative. I can actually take my time to think and develop course content etc without someone (like a pharmacy manager/owner) breathing down my neck all the time.

    Good luck to everyone out there who is thinking of changing fields.
    Look at it this way, you could always keep up your recency of practice requirements (minimum of three months work in three years) as a ‘safety net’.

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