By KARISSE CARMACK
WASHINGTON (Dec. 19, 2008)—Maryland's state schools are working to meet an increasing demand for pharmacists, officials said.
There already is a high demand for more pharmacists, and that's expected to increase in 2020, said Howard Schiff, executive director of the Maryland Pharmacists Association.
Anne Burns, vice president of professional affairs at the American Pharmacists Association, agrees that the profession has seen rising demand in the past 10 years.
Fueling the need for pharmacists are that more pharmacists are called into clinical roles, more patients are receiving treatment outside of hospitals and the numbers of prescriptions being filled is increasing, Burns said.
Enrollment in pharmacy programs has jumped 40 percent in recent years, Schiff said, and several higher learning institutions in the state have begun creating pharmacy degree programs.
Higher learning institutions are responding to the demand.
The University of Maryland at Baltimore is expanding its Pharmacy Hall, with construction expected to be completed by Fall 2010.
University of Maryland at Baltimore student Anthony Raska said he once testified before the Maryland General Assembly about the need to update the school's pharmacy building to meet the needs for more pharmacists, and steps have been taken to help the state keep up with the changes within the industry.
Across the Chesapeake Bay, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore has created a new pharmacy degree program that will begin taking new students for the Fall 2010 semester, according to the school's official Web site.
The College of Notre Dame in Baltimore is also creating a new pharmacy program, Raska said. It's scheduled to open in Fall 2009 with 70 students, according to its Web site, which also said the school is working toward accreditation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for new pharmacists is "expected to increase much faster than the average in 2016," according to the federal Web site. The number of individuals entering the profession is projected to increase by 22 percent between 2006 and 2016, according to the agency.
The increase in the elderly population, which uses more medications, is contributing to this demand, Schiff said.
Also, the duties and responsibilities of pharmacists had changed over the last 20 years. Pharmacists are expected to have a more hands-on role in making sure the patient's medication is suitable for their health needs and is being properly administered.
The biggest misconception is that we stand behind the counter and just issue pills, Schiff said.
"Pharmacists are the medication experts," Schiff said. Pharmacists are increasingly working more and more with physicians to figure out the proper course of treatment for patients, said Schiff.
So far, it's not been hard attracting students to the profession, Burns said.
"Honestly, recruitment usually isn't so much of a problem," Burns said. "It's just that the increase in demand for pharmacists in a variety of different positions has created more of the shortfall," she added.
Since Raska's trip to Annapolis on behalf of UMB, he said the school is better equipped to handle pharmacy's future demands, but thinks that the high demand is waning.
Raska, however, is not concerned about his job prospects. The Miami native is expected to graduate in May 2009 and said he has three job offers on the table, a sign that there is still a demand within the profession.
In terms of salary, median annual wage for pharmacists in May 2006 was $94,520, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.