Magazine article Drug Topics

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Magazine article Drug Topics

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Article excerpt

Reports are growing that understaffing is forcing pharmacists to revert to dispensing

Even as the profession is preaching the gospel of pharmaceutical care, many hospital pharmacists are reverting to drug distribution as their primary function. An informal Drug Topics survey of hospital pharmacists revealed that many facilities simply don't have the manpower to allow R.Ph.s to engage in clinical duties. This is reinforced by ASHP, which reports that "nearly half of hospitals and health systems are experiencing vacancies in pharmacist positions." As a result, dispensing has become the primary function of all too many hospital R.Ph.s.

A number of sources identified low pay as the primary reason for the shortage. "Retail pharmacies pay more and have better benefits, said one R.Ph. at a Michigan home-infusion pharmacy. Eun Lee, RPh., of Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, agreed, adding that "within six months, we lost one part-time and two full-time pharmacists. They went to other hospitals with higher pay."

Chain pharmacies were most often singled out as the biggest competition in pharmacist recruitment, offering substantial sign-on bonuses and higher salaries. A pharmacist at an Indianapolis-area hospital reported that "there were 40 or 50 kids standing at the Walgreens booth" at a recent recruiting conference. ASHP acknowledged that the salaries for hospital pharmacists "are often significantly lower than those of other sectors of pharmacy practice."

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has cited the limited availability of graduating pharmacy students as a major factor. It has urged pharmacy schools to increase class sizes.

Hospital pharmacies seem ill-prepared to recruit to meet their needs. "The inability of hospitals to offer [comparable] salary and benefit packages will keep them from their share of pharmacy graduates," said a Seattle-area R.Ph. Several other pharmacists noted that pharmacy schools in their states are now converting to Pharm.D. programs and will not have graduating classes this year, compounding the recruiting problem in 2001.

Concern over reduced clinical services was voiced by all pharmacists interviewed. "We wanted to launch a clinical program, but because of staff shortages, we can't spare an extra person to go on the floor," said Lee.

Lee Ann Wilhite, R. …

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