International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 129–137 | Cite as

Why do Australian registered pharmacists leave the profession? a qualitative study

  • Vivienne S. L. MakEmail author
  • Geoff J. March
  • Alice Clark
  • Andrew L. Gilbert
Research Article


Background Understanding why people choose to leave their professions is important to inform workforce planning to meet community needs. Poor job satisfaction has been linked to health practitioners expressing intentions to leave in other professions such as nursing, occupational therapy and medicine, but little is known about the reasons why pharmacists leave their profession. Objective To explore reasons why Australian pharmacists leave the profession. Setting As part of a survey of the Australian pharmacist workforce, a questionnaire was mailed to all registered pharmacists (n = 7,764) on the registers of the Pharmacy Boards of Victoria and South Australia; 1,627 (21 %) responded. Participants, who were registered but no longer working as a pharmacist, were asked to provide contact details if they were willing to be interviewed for this study; 89 (5.5 %) pharmacists accepted an invitation. A proportionate sample of 20 was selected for the interview. Method A semi-structured interview schedule was developed with probe options which encouraged participants to further explore their responses to questions. De-identified audio records of interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed. Main outcome measure Reasons why pharmacists leave the pharmacy profession. Results Five themes emerged: (1) Dissatisfaction with the professional environment; (2) lack of career paths and opportunities; (3) under-utilisation of pharmacists’ knowledge and skills; (4) wanting a change; and (5) staying connected with pharmacy. Conclusion These findings provide insights to the pharmacy sector, previously unexplored in Australia, and informs future pharmacist workforce planning. To retain experienced, mid-career pharmacists in the profession, strategies to increase opportunities for career progression, better use of pharmacists’ knowledge and skills and involvement in patient care are required to increase job satisfaction and improve retention rates.


Australia Attrition Dissatisfaction Interviews Job satisfaction Pharmacist workforce 



This work was supported by the Sansom Pharmacy Fund, University of South Australia. The authors would like to thank Dr. Elizabeth Elliot for her contribution to the analysis of the data and to all participants for their contribution to this study.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest in authorship of this article.




  1. 1.
    Department of Health and Ageing. Primary health care reform in Australia: report to support Australia’s First National Primary Health Care Strategy. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2009.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Department of Health. Pharmacy in England: building on strengths, delivering the future. London: Crown Copyright; 2008.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand. Focus on the future: ten-year vision for pharmacists in New Zealand 2004–2014. Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand: Wellington; 2004.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Task Force on a Blueprint for Pharmacy. Blueprint for pharmacy: the vision for pharmacy. Ottawa: Canadian Pharmacists Association; 2008.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Health Workforce Australia (HWA). National Health Workfoce Innovation and Reform Strategic Framework for Action 2011–2015. Adelaide: HWA; 2011.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Health workforce, 2012. [cited 2012 Feb 3]. Available at:
  7. 7.
    Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Australia’s health 2010. Canberra: AIHW; 2010. Australia’s health no. 12. Cat. No. AUS 122.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Schofield DJ, Beard JR. Baby boomer doctors and nurses: demographic change and transitions to retirement. Med J Aust. 2005;183(2):80–3.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Benrimoj SI, Frommer MS. Community pharmacy in Australia. Aust Health Rev. 2004;28(2):238–46.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bell JS, Whitehead P, Aslani P, Sacker S, Chen TF. Design and implementation of an educational partnership between community pharmacists and consumer educators in mental health care. Am J Pharm Educ. 2006;70(2):28.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    The Pharmacy Guild of Australia. The Roadmap: the strategic direction for community pharmacy, 2010. [cited 2010 Jul 30]. Available at:
  12. 12.
    Eden M, Schafheutle EI, Hassell K. Workload pressure among recently qualified pharmacists: an exploratory study of intentions to leave the profession. Int J Pharm Pract. 2009;17(3):181–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Noel MW, Hammel RJ, Bootman JL. Job satisfaction and the future of pharmacy. Am J Hosp Pharm. 1982;39(4):649–51.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Olson DS, Lawson KA. Relationship between hospital pharmacists’ job satisfaction and involvement in clinical activities. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1996;53(3):281–4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kawabata A, Murakami E, Iwaki M, Ogiso T, Suzuki S, Mishima M, et al. Importance of clinical activities to job satisfaction in Japanese pharmacists. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1998;55(4):360–3.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Collins K, Jones ML, McDonnell A, Read S, Jones R, Cameron A. Do new roles contribute to job satisfaction and retention of staff in nursing and professions allied to medicine? J Nurs Manag. 2000;8(1):3–12.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Strachota E, Normandin P, O’Brien N, Clary M, Krukow B. Reasons registered nurses leave or change employment status. J Nurs Adm. 2003;33(2):111–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gauci Borda R, Norman IJ. Factors influencing turnover and absence of nurses: a research review. Int J Nurs Stud. 1997;34(6):385–94.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Jenkins M. The problems of recruitment: a local study. Br J Occup Ther. 1991;54(12):449–52.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Weisman CS. Recruit from within: hospital nurse retention in the 1980s. J Nurs Adm. 1982;12(5):24–31.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Sibbald B, Bojke C, Gravelle H. National survey of job satisfaction and retirement intentions among general practitioners in England. BMJ. 2003;326(7379):22.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Shields MA, Ward M. Improving nurse retention in the National Health Service in England: the impact of job satisfaction on intentions to quit. J Health Econ. 2001;20(5):677–701.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Hawthorne N, Anderson C. The global pharmacy workforce: a systematic review of the literature. Hum Resour Health. 2009;7:48.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Seston E, Hassell K, Ferguson J, Hann M. Exploring the relationship between pharmacists’ job satisfaction, intention to quit the profession, and actual quitting. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2009;5(2):121–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Health Care Intelligence Pty Ltd. A study of the demand and supply of pharmacists, 2000–2010. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia: Canberra; 2003.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hertzberg F, Mausner B, Snyderman B. The motivation to work. New York: John Wiley & Sons; 1959.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Bandura A. Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall; 1977.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Pharmacy Board of Australia. Pharmacy recency of practice registration standard [Internet]. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency; 2011. [cited 2011 Nov 11]. Available at:
  29. 29.
    Human Capital Alliance. Pharmacy workforce planning study: analysis of secondary data to understand pharmacy workforce supply—initial supply report. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia: Canberra; 2008.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Long M, Ridoutt L, Bagnulo J, Braddock D, Chen T, Gissing P, Lennon B, Sansom L, Shah C. Pharmacy workforce planning study: full final report. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia; 2010.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Department of Health and Ageing. A National Health and Hospitals Network for Australia’s future: delivering the reforms. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra; 2010.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Department of Health and Ageing. Building a 21st century primary health care system: Australia’s first National Primary Health Care Strategy. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra; 2010.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Flick U. An introduction to qualitative research. 4th ed. London: Sage Publications; 2009.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Mays N, Pope C. Qualitative research: rigour and qualitative research. BMJ. 1995;311(6997):109.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Mak VSL, March GJ, Clark A, Gilbert AL. The Australian Pharmacist Workforce: Employment status, practice profile and job satisfaction. Aust Health Rev. (in Press).Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Guest G, Bunce A, Johnson L. How many interviews are enough? An experiment with data saturation and variability. Field methods. 2006;18(1):59–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Ezzy D. Qualitative analysis: practice and innovation. London: Routledge; 2002.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ritchie J, Spencer L. Qualitative data analysis for applied policy research. In: Bryman A, Burgess R, editors. Analysing qualitative data. London: Routledge; 1993. p. 173–94.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Chaar B, Brien J, Krass I. Professional ethics in pharmacy: the Australian experience. Int J Pharm Pract. 2005;13(3):195–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Cox ER, Fitzpatrick V. Pharmacists’ job satisfaction and perceived utilization of skills. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1999;56(17):1733–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Humphrys P, O’Brien GE. The relationship between skill utilization, professional orientation and job satisfaction for pharmacists. J Occup Health Psychol. 1986;59(4):315–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Glackin S, Andreadakis I. The Victorian pharmacy workforce 2009. Victoria: Victorian Department of Health; 2011.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    The Pharmacy Guild of Australia. Submission to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission regarding transitional consultations for Pharmacy Industry Award 2010; 2009. [cited 2010 Nov 11]. Available at:

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vivienne S. L. Mak
    • 1
    Email author
  • Geoff J. March
    • 1
  • Alice Clark
    • 1
  • Andrew L. Gilbert
    • 1
  1. 1.Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre, Sansom Institute for Health Research, School of Pharmacy and Medical SciencesUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations