Future of Pharmacy

Ah, there’s no better time to push out a blog post than during San Francisco’s rainy season (if one can even call it a “season”…we haven’t seen rain in months). Anyhoo, I hope you all had an amazing 2013 and are en route to an even more epic 2014!

Back in March 2013, I received a great question through email asking about my opinion on the current job outlook for recent pharmacy graduates, and if I felt that there was saturation in certain markets over others. Very thought-provoking.

I believe that the job outlook for pharmacy graduates is available, but not strikingly favorable. If we take a step back and look at the grand scheme of things, the job saturation that pharmacy is currently undergoing has already affected many other healthcare professions like medicine, nursing, and dentistry. History has a tendency to repeat itself, so while I was initially surprised at the profession’s sharply-rising saturation, I later rationalized that increased competition is inevitable: more students are pursuing higher education, which means the sheer number of individuals aspiring to become healthcare professionals is rising. Our generation faces the conundrum of how to attend to the masses entering the healthcare system via the Affordable Care Act (amidst a backdrop of chronic disease states and comorbidities) while continuing to provide safe, efficacious, and personalized healthcare. The good news is that pharmacists are now being equipped with the tools and supportive legislation to do so. Ooh, on that note, I highly recommend reading about SB-493, aka Chapter 469: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB493. Well, you don’t need to read this exact resource–a summary should suffice 😛

Now, what I find unfortunate is the ever-growing number of pharmacy schools that are popping up around the country. Albeit, there was a publicized demand for pharmacists about 1.5 decades or more ago, but the sheer number of schools that opened in response created an influx of pharmacy graduates in a society that is discovering the expanding role of pharmacists at a snail’s pace. Inevitably, this contributed to the current state of job saturation and increased competition. Pharmacy is not 100% saturated, but pharmacists are quick to comment that saturation is no stranger in crowded urban locations such as San Francisco, and that finding a secure, full-time job may necessitate relocation to a new city or state. That being said, emerging fields of clinical pharmacy–acute care, ambulatory care, medication therapy management, managed care–in various specialties such as HIV, diabetes, oncology, pediatrics, geriatrics, and more offer additional opportunities for pharmacists, especially for those who pursue residencies. From what I have seen and heard, the competition for these positions is greater than that seen in retail pharmacy. Clinical pharmacy, however, is continually expanding as more and more pharmacists are asserting their roles in improving patient outcomes; the push is slow but steady.

In a nutshell, I believe that pharmacy is paradoxically saturating and expanding. The increasing number of pharmacy graduates guarantees greater competition for pharmacy positions; at the same time, pharmacists are creating roles for themselves in the clinical setting. Naturally, the clinical opportunities create competition due to residency requirements and job descriptions and expectations. At the end of the day, my naïve optimism leads me to believe that any well-rounded, driven student pharmacist will achieve his/her professional goals, no matter the job market dynamic. What isn’t guaranteed is how long that will take. But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day 😉

Bon Appétit,


4 responses to “Future of Pharmacy

  1. It was a good read Adele! I just love the way you express things is so dynamic. I am very amused that I met you during the UCD pre-health conference back in October; however, at that time, I didn’t realize that it was you the one who write this blog. After a while, I was like Aha it was you. Reading your blog definitely have given me insight on the profession that I am going to pursue, but seeing you in person is even better! I am glad that I met such a person with very vibrant and great personality!

  2. Good points, Adele:

    Your point on the field paradoxically saturation and expanding is a good one. Unfortunately, for future pharmacy school graduates, the rate of saturation by far trumps the rate of job expansion. The rate of saturation is also aggravated by the threat of future technology which is getting more and more refined by the day, telepharmacy and outsourcing of jobs to India. More food for thought: will insurance companies really reimburse pharmacists for their expanded clinical responsibilities in MTM, etc. when they’re cutting back costs for physicians and nurses? Definitely times of uncertainty lie ahead, which is not getting any better due to the fact that many new schools haven’t even graduated their first class.

    • WorriedRx, your points are extremely valid as well. The more I chat with recent grads, the more sobering our situation as future pharmacists becomes. Regarding the exponential creation of pharmacy schools, my stance is that applying students need to be cognizant of what they’re getting into: a pharmacy school without an affiliation with a medical center will have less robust clinical APPEs, which can be a crutch if residency is the goal. As to reimbursements, I’m also unsure of what the future holds. We can only hope for the best, and, if time permits, get involved in outreach and advocacy 🙂

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