Improving patient care, securing our role in health care: The time is now!

MTM Pearls

Recently an article was passed around the pharmacy that discussed the oversupply of pharmacists and, in particular, the greater number of pharmacists graduating from pharmacy schools and the lack of jobs to accommodate this surplus supply.1 I discussed this topic in an earlier MTM Pearls column, citing an article written in 2012 by Daniel Brown, PharmD.2–3 In a more recent article published in 2013, Brown provided further insight into this looming problem. Following are his main points.4

Key points

  • There has been a 70% increase in first-professional PharmD degree graduates from 2001 to 2011 due to the opening of new pharmacy schools and the expansion of existing programs.
  • The aggregate demand index (ADI), a tool that tracks the difficulty of filling pharmacy positions nationally, had remained relatively steady at a level of ADI = 4 (moderate demand) from 2002 to 2008 but has had a downward trend closer to 3 (demand in balance with supply) in more recent years, with several states in the Northeast region having their ADI dip below 3.
  • The anticipated role expansion and demand for pharmacists to provide direct patient care services has not come to fruition, causing a lower than expected creation of new pharmacist jobs.
  • The bottom line is that the supply of new pharmacists seems to be outpacing the creation of new jobs because the role of pharmacists has not changed as expected when pharmacy workforce needs were projected in 2001.

MTM pearls

The articles cited focus on the supply side of our profession. It is important to be aware of the issues affecting our profession, including our responsibilities to our younger colleagues, so that they inherit a profession that is dynamic, strong, and viable. The remainder of this column will focus on the demand side of the equation. The role of pharmacists continues to expand, and new opportunities are emerging for all of us regardless of practice setting. The challenge for us all is to be ready when the opportunities do emerge, because our window of opportunity may be narrow. Therefore, whether talking to students, residents, or pharmacists, my response is the same—be ready!

Getting ready

The question that keeps coming up is “How do I get ready?” Here is my answer.

  • Pharmacists should be practicing at the level of their degree. That means we need our therapeutic knowledge to be current, relevant, and evidence-based.
  • Changes in health care and pharmacy practice are happening faster than at any other time in my career, and pharmacists need to fully understand these changes and how their roles and responsibilities will continue to evolve. Pharmacists need to prepare themselves for these new roles and responsibilities; those who do not will be left behind and perhaps unemployable.
  • Pharmacists should be advocates not only for their patients but also their profession. We need to be a unified voice as we work with legislators, regulators, and other stakeholders who can affect our future (e.g., obtaining provider status). All of us should be up to date on current pharmacy issues.
  • Our practices need to evolve into patient care centers where we focus on identifying and resolving drug therapy problems for all patients to ensure they are receiving safe and effective medications that help them achieve positive health outcomes.
  • We need to continue exploring and creating collaborative partnerships with other providers, health systems, and organizations, with the patient at the center of our focus. We need to figure out how we share information and utilize each other’s knowledge and skill sets so that we are optimizing the care for our patients.

We cannot wait for our academic centers or pharmacy organizations to figure this out for us. Each of us has a responsibility to make the changes necessary in our own practices to improve patient care and secure our role in the health care system. The time is now!


  2. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2012;52:e139–43
  3. Pharmacy Today. 2013;19(5):35
  4. Am J Pharm Educ. 2013;77(5)