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Gorilla Jobs Blog Does Australia Have Enough Pharmacists Customer In Empty Pharmacy Shop Ringing Bell At Counter

Does Australia have enough Pharmacists and Pharmacy Jobs?

October 27, 2021 0 Comments

A shortfall in the number of pharmacists in Australia could mean it’s time to consider getting a new pharmacy job or studying pharmacy.

Recently, industry players have been predicting in pharmacy news that Australia may face a situation of there being a shortage of pharmacists to fill pharmacy jobs.

And yet, as recent as 2018, long before the immense additional pressure that many health professionals had to deal with as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were concerns about the exact opposite: that in fact, Australia faced an oversupply of pharmacists.

2018: A potential oversupply of pharmacists

In an article by Michel Ortiz, Associate Professor in Health Economics at the University of NSW in the Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP), Ortiz highlighted a lack of planning by leaders of the professional pharmacy associations could be leading to there being too many students in the pharmacy graduate funnel.

Ortiz pointed to an increase in the number of registered pharmacists by nearly 20 per cent between 2013 and 2018, and the sobering results of a 2015 study that modelled a range of potential oversupply of pharmacists scenarios, with the most extreme predicting an astounding 20 per cent oversupply by 2020.

Ortiz’ solution? To reduce the supply of pharmacists by 3,000 over five years by either increasing the demand for pharmacist services or reducing student intake.

Increasing the demand for pharmacist services, and in effect increasing the number of pharmacy jobs – looked like a more doable proposition than reducing the number of students and graduates, with Ortiz believing this could be achieved by:

  1. Increased non-dispensing related professional services reimbursed by the MBS and provided by accredited pharmacists in community pharmacies
  2. Increased medication-related activities by hospital pharmacists taking on nurse drug administration roles in hospitals and Aged Care facilities.
  3. Embedding non dispensing pharmacists in GP practices to improve medication use by patients.

This approach would effectively bring back the future pipeline of supply of pharmacists in line with demand, rather than cranking back supply across an education system where the number of places was embedded and expanding, if anything, not contracting.

Where is the Pharmacy industry and pharmacy jobs now?

Fast forward three years, and the narrative about pharmacy jobs and the supply of pharmacists to the sector has been completely upended.

Notwithstanding a global pandemic that has placed immense pressure on all frontline health workers, including pharmacists, forcing some to rethink their professions, industry pundits are now arguing Australia could be facing a shortage of pharmacists as workforce growth rates have gone into decline.

In a study conducted by Monash University’s Project Pharmacist team, the results indicated that the rate of growth of the number of registered working pharmacists in Australia compared to all other registered health professions was substantially lower.

Digging a little deeper into the study, the key findings included:

  • An increase in females
  • A trend towards hospital practice
  • No change in the geographic distribution of pharmacists
  • The pharmacist workforce grew more slowly than comparable health professions
  • The youngest pharmacist cohort (20–34 years) remained the largest but it reported a decrease in intention to remain working in a pharmacy setting.

Gorilla Jobs Blog Does Australia Have Enough Pharmacists Woman Holding Medication In Pharmacy Shop
Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels

The study concluded that a “fall in student numbers and changes to immigration policy have contributed to a low growth rate and ageing of the pharmacist workforce compared with other professions. Whether these factors along with the intentions of young pharmacists will result in a shortage is dependent on developments in demand for pharmacists.”

The authors of the report called for workforce strategies as essential to monitor these developments.

Targeted recruitment in areas where pharmacists are urgently needed is one of such strategies to strive for. Another example is a need for Pharmacist Mentoring, especially for the hospital pharmacy and rural jobs in remote parts of Australia. This is something that Outreach Pharmacist Janelle Dockray is experienced with and passionately discusses in her recent interview with the Australian Journal of Pharmacy. If you are a pharmacist considering the type of work Janelle is doing, reach out to her for invaluable mentorship.

The authors also noted that there had been an ebb and flow of pharmacists in the workforce over the proceeding thirty years: shortages in the 1990s, which led to pharmacists being listed on the “General Skilled Migration” visa led to the perception of an oversupply by the mid-2010s (as discussed above).

Similar sentiments were echoed in March 2021 by Professional Pharmacists Association (PPA) President Geoff March, who pointed to a trend of people leaving the profession for a variety of reasons that could lead to a shortage. Which way this next ebb and flow in the pharmacy workforce goes, remains to play out. And if you’re looking for your next pharmacy role, reach out to Gorilla jobs today so that our team of experts can give you the best advice on the best pharmacy jobs currently out there.

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