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Press Release

Small Hospitals Struggling to Recruit, Retain Pharmacists

Small hospitals, especially those with less than 100 beds, are experiencing ongoing staffing challenges with higher pharmacist vacancy and turnover rates than large hospitals in the U.S., according to a recent workforce study conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).  Turnover rates among pharmacy staff in small hospitals (one to 99 beds) were 11.4 percent compared to 5.8 percent in large hospitals (400 or more); small hospitals make up 44 percent of all hospitals in the U.S.

The survey revealed that pharmacy directors are employing a number of tactics to combat shortages, including offering flexible scheduling and signing bonuses, and changing their practice environments to be more professionally rewarding. Overall, reported vacancy rates have fallen from 6.9 percent in 2002 to 5.6 percent in 2003.

Pharmacy directors at 578 hospitals and health systems throughout the U.S. answered questions about vacancy levels, available positions, and the supply of qualified pharmacists.  The survey also examined different factors that influence personnel recruitment and retention, including hiring incentives, salaries, physical environment, lifestyle considerations, and professional practice. 

More than half of respondents reported that pharmacy vacancies have:

•Prompted practice changes to allow pharmacists to assume more clinical roles,
•Delayed expansion of pharmacy programs or services into new areas, and
•Reduced service when pharmacists had to be redeployed to cover other duties.

 “The survey findings show a general improvement in pharmacist recruitment and retention in the nation’s hospitals and health systems,” said Douglas J. Scheckelhoff, M.S., FASHP, Director, ASHP Pharmacy Practice Sections.  “However, we’re concerned that smaller hospitals appear to be struggling to find and keep qualified practitioners. We’re hoping that the results of this survey will provide pharmacy directors with a blueprint for designing a workplace environment that can help them recruit and retain personnel.” 

Forty-five percent of respondents indicated that pharmacist shortages have resulted in reduced pharmacist vigilance with medication safety hospital-wide. The survey also showed that 44 percent of pharmacy directors are expanding the roles and responsibilities of pharmacy technician in response to shortages. Just over 31 percent reported increasing the use of automation.

For a copy of the May 2003 survey, go to

ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, ambulatory care clinics, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems. ASHP, which has a long history of medication error prevention efforts, believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medicines.  Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is ASHP’s primary objective.  The Society has extensive publishing and educational programs designed to help members improve their professional practice, and it is the national accrediting organization for pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs.  For more information, visit ASHP’s Web site,, or its consumer Web site,