The Pharmacy Industry Is Having a Nationwide Staffing Problem

( — Retail pharmacies looking to expand services are finding it harder to attract new pharmacists to the industry, Axios reported.

Pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS are hoping to expand services to include vaccinations, patient monitoring, and even some prescribing. However, workforce shortages, staff burnout, and a lack of new talent from pharmacy schools have threatened the expansion.

Walgreens announced on February 5 that it was partnering with colleges of pharmacy to address staffing shortages and decreased enrollment in pharmacy schools. One goal of the partnership is to address the industry’s image.

Walgreens Chief Pharmacy Officer Rick Gates told Axios that the industry must “evolve” if it wants to “get people excited” about working in the pharmacy industry.

The American Association of Colleges and Pharmacy reported a steady decline in enrollment in pharmacy schools in the last decades, dropping by 64 percent from 2012 to 2022.

Graduates from 4-year colleges of pharmacy also declined, dropping from 14,223 in 2021 to 13,323 in 2022, the largest one-year drop since 1983, according to the American Association of Colleges and Pharmacy.

According to Surescripts CEO Frank Harvey, expanding services while cutting down on other work could help restore the respect pharmacists once had in a community. He said that over the last several decades, the job of a pharmacist has been “diluted.” He suggested that returning to the “perception” from 50 years ago about what a pharmacist does could help “restore that respect.”

A 2021 National State-Based Pharmacy Workplace study found that 75 percent of the 6,400 pharmacists surveyed said they were not allocated sufficient time for patient care and clinical duties. Another 71 percent said there were not enough pharmacists to “meet patient care/clinical duties.”

To address concerns about overwork, retailers like CVS and Walgreens are taking steps to streamline and eliminate tasks by investing in automation and “micro-fulfillment centers” that use robots to do most of the work.

According to Rick Gates, the pharmacy industry’s attempts to transform should help its pharmacists prioritize the most fulfilling aspect of their work, namely patient care.

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