The 2016 National Pharmacy Student Survey results are in!
The National Pharmacy Students' Survey (NPSS) is an annual survey conducted by the National Australian Pharmacy Students' Association (NAPSA). The survey identifies any issues, queries or concerns amongst students, and uses this to implement positive change for pharmacy students. Furthermore, the data collated is utilised as a tool by NAPSA to accurately represent and advocate for pharmacy students around Australia. In November 2016, 761 pharmacy students completed the survey; more than doubling the response from the 2015 NPSS. The results highlighted key workforce issues facing pharmacy students and indicated interesting perceptions of the industry.
Consistent with past results, 68% of students are employed in community pharmacy to some capacity and 85% agree or strongly agree that community pharmacy employment is important whilst studying. Almost three-quarters (72%) of respondents agreed their studies have prepared them well for work in community pharmacy. Conversely, only 24% of participants said there is enough guidance provided to students regarding applying for hospital employment. In order to assist with hospital pharmacy employment, students would like more information in earlier years of their degree about different career pathways in pharmacy such as research in a hospital setting; more placements and experience, and assistance with applications. NAPSA representative of the NAPSA/SHPA Working Group, Ms Lisa Bremner said, "it was very clear in the 2016 NPSS that the pharmacy students of Australia wanted, and needed more hospital pharmacy exposure throughout their degrees with 44% of students wanting a career in hospital pharmacy but only 7% feeling fully prepared to apply. It concerns me greatly how many students do not get a single opportunity to experience a pharmacy in a hospital setting by the end of their degree. Both NAPSA and the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) feel strongly about this issue and have released a joint position statement regarding it".
In regards to their studies, 78% of students are satisfied with their decision to study pharmacy thus far, with 60% agreeing they would recommend pharmacy to others. Additionally, 56% indicated their opinion of pharmacy had changed for the better since beginning their studies. NAPSA President, Shefali Parekh said, "our organisation has a huge influence on how students and graduates who will work in the industry in the future, perceive pharmacy; and so, it is really humbling to see we are doing our jobs correctly and most students are thinking positively about the profession. There is definitely room for improvement though, and so we will continue to strive towards making sure every NAPSA member believe they have a bright and bold future in pharmacy".
Regarding career prospects, unsurprisingly, metropolitan pharmacy continues to be the most appealing setting for pre-registration year. However, 42% of participants were also interested in rural or regional pharmacy for their internship year. 71% of students had not undertaken a rural placement and so NAPSA's Rural and Indigenous Chair, Emma Conway reassured, "NAPSA strives to advocate and encourage students to experience rural pharmacy whilst in university. Being able to experience rural pharmacy whilst a student encourages the consideration of rural practice in the future".Although 57% of participants believed their greatest barrier to working in a non-metropolitan area were the lifestyle sacrifices and distance from family and friends; 65% of those who had completed a rural placement disagreed that their placement was negatively affected by location issues. Ms Conway added, "this proves that experiencing rural pharmacy during a university placement has the ability to change students' perceptions of where they are capable of expanding their practice in the future. As a result, one of NAPSA's major projects for this term is the utilisation of a map, which allows students to visualise the locations of rural or remote pharmacies across Australia".
In regards to workforce issues, students were asked to identify the greatest barriers to them as a future pharmacist, and over half perceived oversupply of pharmacists and poor salary to be largest obstacles. These key issues were consistent with previous years' results. Following from this, 66% students suggested an expanded role for NAPSA could include lobbying for better pay and conditions. Ms Parekh said, "we have listened to our members and been engaged nationally on a political and policy level to ensure these concerns are raised. For example, we submitted a response to the King Review on Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation earlier this year and we will continue to advocate for pharmacy students in this way".
The areas of education students would like to see a heavier focus on from NAPSA were mental health, pharmacy practice and pharmacy placements. Following this, 73% of respondents indicated that Mental Health First Aid training should be a requirement of the Pharmacy Board of Australia (PBA) to become a Registered Pharmacist. Ms Parekh said, "it is this widespread consensus that led NAPSA to release a position statement on RUOK day this year to lobby for this qualification requirement to be set by the PBA. We now hope the unbiased student voice will be heard loudly enough for action to be taken in the new year".
NAPSA Director of Internal Affairs, Angelica Lagoda concludes, "overall, I am extremely excited by the results from the NPSS and I look forward to continuing to support and advocate for our members especially regarding employment, education and industrial affairs".
Executive Director - Internal Affairs
National Australian Pharmacy Students Association
Angelica Lagoda:0449 013 753
Shefali Parekh: 0422 394 905
Emma Conway: 0467 589 278
Lisa Bremner: 0428 172 618