Points to ponder: Hospital vs. retail career paths in 2018
Friday, January 12, 2018
Today's pharmacists have more career paths to ponder than ever before.
No longer are you limited to choosing between being a retail staff pharmacist or a hospital staff pharmacist. Numerous pharmacy residency programs exist to qualify pharmacists to work in specialized settings, such as critical care, oncology, infectious disease, pain management and many more. There are also opportunities that exist in managed care, industry and academia.
Yet, for all the present diversity of opportunity that exists, 89 percent of all pharmacy jobs are still basically a choice between "retail" and "hospital." Fellowships and residencies have expanded the type of hospital role you may play, but the settings haven't changed a lot. At the end of the day, most pharmacists will be driving home from a hospital or some sort of retail setting.
In previous years, the high demand for pharmacists made it easier to switch career paths. Employers were eager to get you, and therefore willing to take the time to train you.
But that was then, and this is now. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 312,500 pharmacy jobs in 2016. Compare that to the fact that there were already 327,555 pharmacists in 2016, according to an NABP workforce report. The surplus isn't coming; it's here.
Consequently, pharmacists need to think carefully about their chosen career path today as it will become increasingly difficult to find jobs, and even more difficult to shift gears to another path.
So what factors should you be considering?
One factor is job growth. According to an article written by Healthcare Consultants in November, "The USDL estimates indicate that a drop in the total number of retail pharmacy jobs available will be seen over the next decade. Although it is minimal (less than 1 percent), retail jobs for pharmacists will be stagnant. The good news is that the number of hospital jobs will increase by well over 10 percent during the next 10 or so years."
But this statistic can be deceiving. If the growth in hospital jobs is due mostly to opportunities in specific specialty areas (e.g., infectious disease, oncology), then these new jobs will not be helpful to most pharmacists.
Another factor is job stability. While retail jobs are not increasing, the major employers in these settings are doing well financially.
Walgreens, for example, is starting 2018 off on the right foot. According to Seeking Alpha, Walgreens' "adjusted earnings grew by 16 percent year over year. Prescriptions filled increased 9.5 percent, comparable sales increased 4.7 percent." CVS also shows positive signs with the Aetna merger on the horizon, which will put the power of an insurer, a PBM and pharmacy chain all under one roof.
Hospitals, on the other hand, seem to be struggling. A recent report from the Advisory Board noted that hospital margins were down 2015 to 2016, a trend that could continue if health coverage declines due to changes to the Affordable Care Act. Thin margins mean tight budgets, and getting approval for more full-time positions may be challenging.
So is there a crystal ball to tell pharmacists which career path to pursue? No.
Every path has risks and benefits. Job satisfaction may be much more important than the paycheck or promotion potential. I highly recommend talking to pharmacists currently working in the field you are thinking about.
The most important thing is that pharmacists are proactive in managing their careers.
Don't just go through the motions and expect that you will always have a great job. Continue your education, stay involved in the profession, and add value to the patient lives and companies that you work for. As Thomas Edison once said, "There is no substitute for hard work."
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