The pharmacist salary debate goes on
Monday, December 03, 2018
When the famous John D. Rockefeller was asked, "How much money is enough?" he reportedly replied, "just a little bit more."
I have yet to meet someone who felt he was overpaid for his work. Underpaid? For sure. Overpaid? Never. We are all, typically, very good at identifying "others" whom we think are paid too much. Rare is the person willing to question her or his own salary and wonder if they are overpaid.
If you browse the internet, you are likely to stumble upon numerous websites, articles and blogs in which individuals are decrying the salary of pharmacists. They will blame the high cost of U.S. healthcare on the money earned by those who care for patients like doctors, nurses and us. Pharmacists are sometimes depicted as an unnecessary "middlemen" in the prescription delivery process.
I have no intention to entertain a debate like that in this article. Rather, in many ways I can sympathize. I understand that most of the public is blinded to what a pharmacist really does every day.
If all that a pharmacist did was count pills, then it would be hard to justify their salary. But could it be, possibly, that what many pharmacists are doing on a daily basis is just a little more involved and complicated than that?
A common misconception I suppose is that a "prescription" leaves the pen of the physician in a similar fashion that a silver platter of butter-poached lobster leaves the kitchen of Eleven Madison Park in New York. Beautiful. Delicious. Flawless. Picture-perfect.
While I have enormous respect for the work of physicians and acknowledge that most of them are great prescribers, mistakes are still frequent enough to keep the pharmacist on her toes.
Many prescriptions arrive at the pharmacy in a tangled mess. Dosages and directions are wrong. The drug is wrong. The duration and refills are wrong.
Do pharmacists catch every mistake? Of course not. But I cannot imagine a system where patients automatically just received what was ordered, without a careful review being done.
Today’s pharmacists, particularly those involved in checking orders, are expected to protect patients and promote their safe access to medications in the midst of numerous distractions. Most of this happens behind the scenes. People will complain online that they rarely ever talk to the pharmacist.
They imagine, therefore, that what they are doing can’t be that important. What they fail to grasp is that the pharmacist didn’t have time to talk because he or she was too busy making sure the medication was safe, appropriate, covered and dispensed accurately.
We should, however, have time to talk to patients. That is a subject for another article.
Yet the salary debate will continue to go on. Some of the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that pharmacists make around $122,000 per year right now in the U.S. Maybe that seems excessive to some people. I guess my question for them is this: compared to what?
Is the pharmacist salary excessive compared to that of the average Fortune 500 CEO in the U.S. who makes just over $10,000,000 per year? Or what about consultants who make $400 or more per hour for their "work."
According to a recent USA Today article, there are over 70 professions in the U.S. that average six-figure salaries including astronomers, engineering professors, political scientists, software engineers, economists and actuaries. I’m not suggesting that any of these professions are overpaid. Well, except for the political scientists (hoping my political science buddy will read this!).
How much, exactly, should a pharmacist make? Those debating the issue never seem to want to answer that question. They raise the complaint. But the fact is that the basic economics of supply and demand operate in the pharmacy profession just like any other vocation.
Go ahead. Keep debating. I personally have more important things to focus on in my career. And I have found through years of experience that some people are convinced the grass is always greener on the pharmacist’s side of the fence.
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