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Pharmacy Jobs: 2021 Update

June 4, 2021 0 Comments

As a follow up to our 2020 pharmacy jobs outlook, here is the latest on how the pharmacy industry is tracking.

In late 2019, we put together some analysis on one of Gorilla Jobs key verticals, pharmacy jobs.

While much  of the information we presented in 2019 still stands or has not been since updated by peak bodies, there have been some interesting developments in the sector that could affect the pharmacy jobs outlook.

Overview of pharmacy jobs

Analysis from the Federal government’s “Job Outlook” site (mostly pulled from ABS data) paints a relatively positive picture of the pharmacy sector.

According to the analysis, five years of very strong growth between 2014 and 2019, during which the number of working pharmacists increased by 32% to 29,600 pharmacists employed in 2019 will be followed by more moderate growth over the next five years, with the total number of pharmacists in 2024 estimated to reach around 31,300.

At a median weekly pay of $1,862 (compared to the average wage of $1.460), nearly 70% or pharmacists were employed full-time, putting in an average of 43 hours per week. Over 60% were female and the average age was relatively young at 34 when compared to the average worker age of 40.

Over 70% of pharmacists were employed in retail, with the majority of the remaining 30% in healthcare and social assistance. 

In terms of geographical spread, 75% of pharmacists were located in the more populous states of NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

Rural pharmacists jobs

Although rural and remote pharmacies have traditionally faced various challenges, including high staff turnover, reduced pharmacist numbers and a reliance on temporary staff, one of the few positive outcomes of a turbulent 2020 was the way in which pharmacists were able to assist in the regions with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This proved especially important given the difficulty rural GP practices can have filling vacancies, meaning that quite often the rural pharmacist holds even greater importance in remote communities.

The spread of the use of telehealth during the pandemic and it being made a permanent fixture on the MBS has implications for this in that it means pharmacists might become even more a triaging and healthcare advice component of the healthcare workforce. Further to this enhanced role of pharmacists, in April 2020, the government announced pharmacists would be able to undertake MedsChecks, Diabetes MedsChecks, HMRs and RMMRs via telehealth.

When this  is linked to the slowly growing desire of Australian workers to move from urban to rural settings, there looks to be a distinct possibility of there being more rural pharmacy jobs in the future.

And with the possibility of expanded duties in remote and rural locations, this may act as an incentive to pharmacists looking for pharmacy jobs that offer a different set of challenges to roles based in cities.

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COVID-19: From e-scripts to vaccinations, how pharmacy jobs are changing

While there were some changes afoot prior to the global pandemic, there can be little doubt that COVID-19 has rapidly sped up some of these.

The use and availability of e-scripts is a stunning example. What started off as mere trials in mid-2020 has become widespread in a very short time: by April 2021, the rollout of e-scripts reached 97% of pharmacies. 

Not only is this a potential game-changer for patient healthcare outcomes, particularly when linked to the uptake in telehealth for anyone with a chronic medical condition, it may also lead to further tech changes that embed even further how important pharmacy jobs are to their local communities.

For example, the next phase in the e-script rollout is the Active Script List (ASL). This  is where a patient’s e-scripts are consolidated in a digital list, which has benefits for patients and pharmacists, particularly for anyone taking multiple medications.

And then, of course, there is the role of pharmacists in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Pharmacists dispensing yearly flu vaccinations means it stands to reason they could also assist with COVID-19 vaccinations. While there was some pushback from the GP community about this, the Federal government recognised the potential difficulties of vaccinating rural communities, bringing forward plans for pharmacists to play a key role in this.

And it’s not just rural and remote settings where pharmacists can help out. The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, announced at the 2021 Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference that 56 Queensland community pharmacies would be the first to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations.

What does all this mean for pharmacy jobs?

While pharmacists are already embedded as key drivers for better community health outcomes, a continuing recalibration of the role they play means there could be an even greater demand for pharmacy jobs in the future.

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