Nationwide, pharmacists make up the third-largest group of health care professionals with approximately 233,000 pharmacists practicing in 2006 and more than 305,000 active pharmacists expected by 2020. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that increasing pharmacist demand will be fueled in part by the need to replace pharmacists who leave or retire from the profession or who begin working part time and that pharmacist jobs will “grow much faster than the average for all occupations”—22 percent between 2006 and 2016.2 While these numbers portend excellent job prospects, they don’t reflect the current and predicted future shortages of pharmacists that have concerned the pharmacy community, Congress and state policymakers since the 1990s.
Western states consistently have “the highest level of unmet pharmacist demand,” according to Aggregate Demand Index (ADI) datab analyzed by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education. In June 2009, Colorado's need for pharmacists was classified as “moderate”—a 3.86 on a five-point scale—indicating “some difficulty filling positions.” For the past decade, Colorado’s monthly rating has hovered around that number, indicating that the state’s pharmacist shortage has remained constant.
Given the high demand for pharmacists, this report provides findings from the CHI survey of licensed pharmacists in Colorado and is set in the context of supply and demand issues facing Colorado’s health professions workforce.