Big Bucks, Bonuses, Even BMWs Used to Woo R.Ph.S

By Ukens, Carol | Drug Topics, September 6, 1999 | Go to article overview

Big Bucks, Bonuses, Even BMWs Used to Woo R.Ph.S


Ukens, Carol, Drug Topics


The lure of a new BMW on lease, $50 an hour, or a $10,000 signing bonus, while not the norm, are some of the ways pharmacists are being courted by employers desperate to fill vacancies, according to employment agencies flogging high-- paying jobs in a tight labor market.

Some drugstore chains, and the hospitals dueling those chains for the same limited number of pharmacists, are doing what it takes to get the bodies on board. One national chain does, indeed, dangle the bait of a new leased BMW, according to some recruiters. They also said that hospitals in New Mexico and Texas have offered $10,000 signing bonuses. And one said pay rates have gone as high as $50 per hour in areas where available R.Ph.s are harder to find than Bruce Springsteen concert tickets.

Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin were all mentioned by recruiters as hot spots for pharmacist shortages. Robert Colmery Jr., a v.p. with Allied Consulting Inc., added that there are currently 400 R.Ph. job vacancies in North Texas alone, and Baylor Hospital is looking for eight pharmacists. In 1997, his Dallasbased hospital recruitment fine conducted R.Ph. searches for 20 hospitals; last year the number jumped more than 400% to 82. His fine used to serve smaller communities, but large metro area hospitals are now also sending out the SOS.

"There's a huge need throughout the entire country for pharmacists," Colmery said. "A lot has to do with the retail side, where drugstores are opening left and right. They can come into a community and pull people right out of the hospital."

Not every pharmacist is going to be offered a $10,000 bonus or a new car, cautioned Adam DeBruin, R.Ph., president of R.Ph. Professional Search, Appleton, Wis. Depending on geography and the desperation factor, salaries are generally in the $60,000 to $70,000 range, and bonuses average between $3;000 and $5,000. But he is also concerned that salaries are being pushed so high that employers will turn to automation.

"As a profession, we need to be careful," he said. "If we keep driving the salaries up too high, the chains and hospitals will figure a way to eliminate us. That's what happened in nursing."

Pharmacists who pit their current employers against employers offering higher pay and hefty signing bonuses are playing a potentially costly game, cautioned Sheila Liberman, R. …

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