That’s according to Glen Schumock, College of Pharmacy Dean at University of Illinois, Chicago.
But preparedness isn’t the problem—it’s the lack of people applying. From fall 2011 to fall 2021, pharmacy school applications decreased by more than 60%, data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy shows.
“So how do we inspire the next generation of people to move into the profession?” Schumock says.
One way is by hearing from actual pharmacists who are passionate about their job. That’s why Schumock recently joined a live discussion on LinkedIn with three Walgreens pharmacists, so they could share what their jobs are really like. Helping Schumock moderate the discussion was UIC alumnae Rina Shah, PharmD, Walgreens SVP, Pharmacy of the Future and Transformation. Shah, a second-generation pharmacist, recently marked 25 years with the company.
The full video of the discussion is below, but future pharmacists should know these three things about the profession:
1. Community pharmacists DO have time for personal interactions with patients and can really make an impact.
Patel, who has worked at Walgreens for 28 years, says her location manages more than 3,000 patients living with diseases like HIV, Hepatitis C or cancer, among other things. Patel shared a story of how she helped a young, scared patient navigate a STD diagnosis, providing her medication counseling and connecting her with support. She says the patient still visits her specialty site today.
“I love having a career where I can have face-to-face impact with patients,” Patel says, explaining how the retail or community pharmacist role needs to break away from the stigma of being transactional. It’s more about building patient relationships, she says.
2. New technology has created efficiencies in the pharmacy profession, meaning less administrative tasks and more time for patients.
“The great part is we’re not taking that labor out of our stores, just repurposing that labor into tangible, meaningful face-to-face interactions with patients, digging into what barriers to care they might have so they can ultimately have longer, healthier lives,” Lawson says.
Technological advancement in the industry is a key area that Shah is focused on in her work at Walgreens.
“Our efforts with micro-fulfillment, automation and even centralization to remove calls from the store, is what we're focused on, so that our team members can engage with more patients,” Shah says.
3. There are multiple opportunities for furthering your education and career growth.
“I love being able to connect my students to any opportunities they’re intrigued in as well as making sure they have the foundation they need to succeed in whichever field of pharmacy they choose,” she says, adding that sharing the range of her experiences helps students understand the breadth of what pharmacists can do.
Persaud, along with Patel, also mentor Walgreens community pharmacists.
“We’re giving our staff pharmacists and managers exposure to specialty and what else Walgreens can offer,” Patel says. “They learn about what we do at a specialty level and how they can also utilize those things at a retail level. So, mentorship is great, externally and internally, and I feel like we do that well as a company.”
Watch the full LinkedIn Live discussion below: