Pharmacists are one of the least happy careers in the United States.

Career Explorer

In my previous blog post I asked the question “How Happy are Recent Pharmacy Graduates?” My internet research showed a disturbingly large number of recent pharmacy graduates were unhappy with their choice of profession due to the many disappointments experienced when their expectations did  not come close to the reality.  So, how happy are pharmacists in general?

CareerExplorer conducts ongoing surveys with millions of people and asks them how satisfied they are with their careers. Pharmacists rate their career happiness 2.7 out of 5 stars which puts them in the bottom 9% of careers.

Pharmacy Times surveyed 593 respondents. When asked on a scale of 1 to 7 (with 1 being “not at all” and 7 being “extremely”) how they would rate their current overall job satisfaction, roughly half (273) of the pharmacist respondents answered 4 or less.

Could it be that job dissatisfaction correlates with the job itself?

US News and World Report publishes an annual “Best Jobs” list using a set of criteria that takes into account each profession’s median annual salary, the growth of new jobs over the next ten years, job stability, current unemployment data, plus some subjective criteria like personal balance, job satisfaction and stress on the job. In the 2018 list, pharmacists came in at forty-fifth out of one-hundred. In the 2021 list, pharmacists did not even appear in the top 100. Did US News just completely overlook pharmacists? No, US News listed pharmacists #20 out of 25 of the best paying jobs. It also listed pharmacy as 29th out of 29 in the best healthcare jobs. It is important to note that it may not be fair to rate the entire profession, since there are many distinct areas of specialized practice where truer results regarding “best jobs” may vary.

According to a new survey by Communications International Group Healthcare Research, nearly 60 percent of pharmacists said that they would not choose the same profession again and almost three-quarters would not recommend the career to their children.

So why all this bad news?

In community pharmacy, pharmacists struggle to fill prescriptions, give flu shots, tend the drive-through, answer phones, work the register, counsel patients and call doctors and insurance companies, all the while racing to meet corporate performance metrics that they characterized as unreasonable and unsafe in an industry squeezed to do more with less.

Community pharmacists aren’t the only ones who are disappointed. Two-thirds of all pharmacists felt like they did not have a high level of control in their work environment.

Pharmacists cited higher work volume (79%), COVID-19 (67%), and more pressure from management (65%) as the highest stressors.

Pharmacists cited higher work volume (79%), COVID-19 (67%), and more pressure from management (65%) as the highest stressors; 69 percent found it hard to maintain a good work-life balance and 36 percent wanted to make a career change.

Pharmacy jobs were rated as below average in regards to flexibility. This was noted in numerous areas, including work hours, scheduling, geography and job environment.

Even though a pharmacist job ranked as #20 as a best paying position in the nation, salary alone obviously is not sufficient enough to make pharmacy as attractive a profession as many would have thought.

Pharmacy jobs were also rated as below average in regards to future growth. Although there are tens of thousand of available jobs, the majority of these open positions are primarily in retail pharmacy settings, and switching between hospital and retail job environments is not viewed as an easy transition.

What is interesting is that the aforementioned Pharmacy Times survey had a mechanism to delve into the reasons for the pharmacists’ dissatisfaction and many of those reasons mirrored the disappointments expressed by the recent pharmacy  graduates – too much busywork and paperwork and not enough time for patient interactions.

What is the result of this unhappiness with the profession? Burnout. We will take a closer look at this growing reality in a future blog post.

Are You Happy Being a Pharmacist?

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