Magazine article Drug Topics

Too Many Pharmacists? No. Greater Need to Use Them Wisely? Yes!

Magazine article Drug Topics

Too Many Pharmacists? No. Greater Need to Use Them Wisely? Yes!

Article excerpt


Two subjects are being widely discussed in the world of pharmacy. The first is whether there is a surplus of pharmacists. A few years ago, pharmacy school graduates were able to choose from a selection of good jobs in exactly the locations they wanted to practice; today, new graduates must compete for available positions. To find jobs, pharmacists must look further from home, and sometimes the jobs are less than the ideal positions the students had in mind.

There are, as the argument goes, too many pharmacists for the number of placements available. At least at this time, that is probably not true. It is true that some students do not have jobs waiting when they walk out of the university, diplomas in hand. It is also true that competition for choice positions is getting tougher and tougher.

Out of the basement

The second topic under discussion is the growing recognition of the value of pharmacists' training and skills. Pharmacists are no longer confined to the hospital basement or behind the counter at the community pharmacy. As the shortage of pharmacists has evaporated, more pharmacists are taking clinical positions.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine1 compared the numbers of preventable adverse drug events (ADEs) when pharmacists were or were not involved in discharge counseling of hospital patients. The results were dramatic: 30 days after discharge, preventable ADEs were detected in 11 % of patients in a control group, compared with 1 % in the pharmacist intervention group.

At a time when "adverse drug events result in more than 700,000 Emergency Department [ED] visits yearly,"2 it has been shown that pharmacists added to the ED staff can result in increased patient care and decreased overall costs.3

In 2010 the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services estimated that 180,000 annual Medicare patient deaths were due to what was characterized as "bad care."3 The fact that pharmacists can improve these numbers has drawn increasing recognition.

Greater numbers, more need

These two topics may have a symbiotic relationship. The dark clouds surrounding pharmacists' growing numbers and resulting competition may have a silver lining. Pharmacists are needed in more areas now, and now there will be enough pharmacists to begin to fill these needs. …

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