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Based on results of a report on the national pharmacy work force shortage recently released to Congress, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is calling for new federal funds and incentives to help fill the void.
William A. Zellmer, deputy executive vice president of ASHP, notes that this shortage prohibits patients from receiving the fullest quality of care that they need and that pharmacists are trained to provide.
"This imbalance in the supply and demand of pharmacists is a long-term issue. As such, it requires long-term solutions," Zellmer tells Drug Utilization Review.
One part of the solution, as posed by ASHP, is federal funds to encourage colleges of pharmacy to expand enrollment. "The model exists for this endeavor," says Zellmer. "We saw it done as part of a capitation program in the ’70s. Once incentive is in place, existing colleges of pharmacy can expand their infrastructures. That includes increasing the number of clinical faculty and practice sites."
As this growth occurs, enrollment can also increase.
"The shortage of pharmacists is very clearly related to the quality of health care patients receive," Zellmer says.
The broad-reaching effect on patient care and safety is what Zellmer expects will spur federal funding. "Additional funding needs to go toward post-graduate training of pharmacists, too," Zellmer asserts. "Hospitals are increasingly asking for pharmacists with residency training. We need to increase the number of available residency programs in order to try to keep up with the demand for residency graduates."
"We’re still too focused on the mechanical aspects of pharmacy," Zellmer tells DUR. "Instead, pharmacists need to focus on their clinical skills. The more we can use automation and technicians to perform distributive tasks, the more pharmacists can be freed to focus on specific patient care aspects. Without standardized training for technicians, pharmacists remain reluctant to turn dispensing responsibilities over to the technicians. Therefore, we
also need to rethink the training and roles of technicians."
The shortage of pharmacists is a multifaceted problem requiring solutions from all angles. "It’s time to start getting serious about providing and implementing the solutions," says Zellmer.
• William A. Zellmer, Deputy Executive Vice President, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 7272 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814. Telephone (301) 657-3000.