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Professional pharmacy manpower in British Columbia : an exploration of selected topics and issues Polglase, Elaine Hadfield

Abstract

The rapid and accelerating growth of the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia between 1974 and 1976 led to concern in the profession for what growth might reasonably be expected in the future. It was known that recent entrants had experienced difficulty in obtaining pharmacy employment in B.C. and this aroused anxiety about the capacity of the system to absorb future growth. As an extension of its work in employment information, employment relations and pharmacy economics, the B.C. Pharmacists' Society established a committee to focus on the manpower supply and demand balance of the profession. In order to address these concerns a study was designed in three parts. The first consists of a general review of supply and demand problems common to all types of health manpower. The system of pharmacist supply in B.C. is outlined, as are demographic characteristics of the register. Details of the employment system are also explored. The second part of the study is devoted to developing a method for projecting future growth of the number of pharmacists. From a complex model which illustrates the flows of manpower in and out of active licensed status, the main elements of supply and loss are identified. Trends surrounding these individual factors are analysed, and several projections for growth are made under varying policy assumptions. The third phase of the study presents the findings of a survey of individual pharmacists to determine their employment situation in 1977 and 1978. Several estimates of total retail prescription demand in British Columbia are made, using data from the responses of individual dispensing pharmacists and community pharmacy managers. The staffing patterns in community pharmacies to meet this demand are examined. Prescription workloads of community pharmacists are compared to norms previously developed by the profession, and time distributions, use of auxiliary personnel, and computer aids are determined. For the hospital pharmacy field, the staffing levels are compared to standards of the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, and estimates of pharmacist time spent in drug utilization review are compared to the recommendation of the federally funded 1975 Working Party on Standards for Institutional Pharmacy Service. The findings of the study lead to conclusions that the profession has a capacity for growth of its manpower supply that is as large, and perhaps even larger than the growth of the population it will serve by 1990; but it will not likely grow at the very high rates experienced in the mid-1970's. On the demand side the conclusions are basically similar to those of the Royal Commission on Health Services in 1966: viz., in hospital pharmacy there are too few pharmacists. This is no longer due to a lack of attractiveness of the field, nor to a large disparity in its wage rates, but rather to the lack of an official provincial policy on institutional pharmacy services and staffing levels. In the field of community pharmacy there is still a drug dispensing overcapacity due to large numbers of relatively small outlets. While little work was done to explore costs, the wide variation in pharmacist dispensing loads indicated that there were likely extreme cost pressures on pharmacies with low prescription volume. Among the recommendations arising out of the study are proposals that these data be given careful consideration by the College of Pharmacists of B.C., the B.C.Pharmacists' Society and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in their role as planning agencies. The maintenance of a data base will continue to be important, and further research should be done on the growth and age distribution of the manpower supply, the economic base of community pharmacy, and the staffing and services in institutional pharmacies.

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