Pharmacy Grads Failing State Board Exams

Fewer pharmacy graduates are passing the state board examsFewer pharmacy graduates are passing the state board exams each year on their first attempt. Alarmingly, an interesting recent article discussing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination pass rate for graduates from the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s pharmacy school revealed that just over seventy percent (72.6%) passed the test. Conversely, that means that 27.4% failed (or over one out of four graduates from the college). Although the College of Pharmacy’s Dean blamed the low test pass rate on a changed format for the exam (the standardized testing is now what’s considered linear versus being adaptive previously), the fact that over 27% of the graduates failed is a bit astonishing. Even more so when one looks at the previous exam pass rates over the past three years:
2017 – 72.6%
2016 – 84.2%
2015 – 82.8%

National Pharmacist Licensure Examination Pass Rates

An alarming annual decrease in pharmacy graduates passing the NAPLEX test is of concern to many employers and others in the US healthcare field. NAPLEX stands for The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination and is a national standardized exam that’s now required for all pharmacists practicing in the USA. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) does provide some limited historical data that covers the previous three (3) years, but thanks to a great service provided by ClinCalc we are able to analyze exam data all the way back to 2005.

Here are the actual national exam first attempt pass rates by pharmacy graduates from 2005 through 2016:
Year      # of Graduates Tested              National Average
2016                 14,190                                      86%
2015                 13,786                                      92%
2014                 13,369                                      95%
2013                 12,702                                      96%
2012                 12,222                                      97%
2011                 11,916                                      95%
2010                 11,377                                      94%
2009                 10,999                                      96%
2008                 10,449                                      97%
2007                   9,886                                      96%
2006                   9,025                                      93%
2005                   8,296                                      91%

Issues and Concerns Raised

Several interesting issues are raised by the decrease in the national pharmacy exam first attempt pass rates that is taking place nationally. The question that many ask is “why?”. After a steady increase seen from 2005 through 2008 (when the pass rate rose from a low of 91% to a high of 97% across the US), the rate leveled out for the next four years. Since the high of 97% seen in 2012, there then has been a gradual, but steady decrease in the rate leading to the national low of 86% seen last year (2016). Some experts agree that part of the decreased pass rate can be associated with the national standardized exam (NAPLEX) being used now for all pharmacy school graduates. Yet that leads many to ask the following question – Does that mean that previous graduates who didn’t take the NAPLEX but passed are not qualified to be Registered Pharmacists practicing the profession? The answer is obviously no. By itself, the passing of an exam does not make a pharmacy graduate a pharmacist. What it does show is that a person is qualified and ready to continue learning to be the best pharmacist that they can be by actively working on the job. Many would agree that learning on the job and gaining experience over time are the most important factors involved in becoming a “professional” pharmacist.

Perhaps a bigger issue for many is the number of pharmacy school graduates that are taking the exam. In the US the number of pharmacy graduates has “exploded” due to the large increase in the number of colleges that now offer a degree in Pharmacy. In 1987 there were a total of 72 accredited pharmacy schools in the US. According to the AACP (American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy) there are currently 129 accredited pharmacy schools. Looking at the number of graduates who took the exam nationally, one sees a steady increase from the low of 8,296 graduates in 2005 to the record high of 14,190 that was seen last year in 2016. That represents an increase of slightly over seventy percent (71%). Although projections provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate a continued positive increase in the growth of the total number of jobs for pharmacists over the next decade in the US, many are concerned that the number of new pharmacy graduates will at some point outpace that job growth. Many experts predict that due to the laws of supply and demand, salaries for pharmacists in certain areas of the country will at some point have to adjust and begin to decline over time.

The Solution If Your New RPh Fails The Board Exam

Many graduates accept a job offer prior to actually taking the state board exam. To be competitive and attract the top talent, many employers offer candidates a job or position contingent on their passing the NAPLEX. Yet what happens when the graduate fails the exam? As one looks closely at the trends discussed, upwards of 14 out of 100 pharmacy graduates taking the exam for the first time are failing to pass. Many pharmacy owners and managers are left in a desperate situation and must spend their time and valuable resources in what can become an exhaustive search for a pharmacist.

HealthCare Consultants Pharmacy Staffing can help you in such a difficult situation. Known as the leading pharmacy staffing agency in the USA for 28+ years now, HCC has a professional staff who can find you the right pharmacist to match your needs, whether it be in a retail, hospital or a specialty pharmacy setting. When it comes to pharmacy recruiting, pharmacist placement and pharmacy staffing services, HCC is nationally renowned for our ability to match the right pharmacist to the right employer and job in every type of situation. This includes permanent and long term placements in all 50 states. We also can help with temp-to-permanent situations.

Contact us today online or call us at 800-642-1652 and find out for yourself why HCC is the pharmacy staffing agency of choice throughout the USA!

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