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Relief Pharmacist vs Locum Pharmacist: What’s The Difference?

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Have you ever wondered what the difference is between relief pharmacists and locum pharmacists? The terms are often used interchangeably and while the job functions are the same, there is a distinct difference between these types of pharmacists — work contracts. Relief pharmacists find work through an agency or job-matching site, while locum pharmacists work as “freelancers,” finding open shifts for themselves. 

Let’s compare relief pharmacists vs locum pharmacists to see which option is right for you. 

What Is a Relief Pharmacist?

A relief pharmacist fills open pharmacy shifts when the regular pharmacist can’t come to work. Relief pharmacists travel around to different pharmacies, working relief shifts for as long as needed. Typically, relief shifts last for several days in a row, which means a relief pharmacist could work the same job for at least a week or longer. 

Relief pharmacists temporarily run the pharmacy until the regular pharmacist returns. This means that a relief pharmacist handles all the same jobs and responsibilities as a pharmacist, including: 

  • Filling and dispensing prescriptions
  • Maintaining patient relationships 
  • Supervising daily operations 
  • Upholding standard operating procedures

A relief pharmacist needs all the same education and training as a regular pharmacist since they are running the pharmacy for a short time. Most relief pharmacists work through a staffing agency or job-matching site to get matched with open relief shifts. 

What Is a Locum Pharmacist?

The term “locum” is used to describe a person who temporarily stands in for someone of the same profession. This means that, like a relief pharmacist, a locum pharmacist covers for a regular pharmacist when they can’t work. 

Locum pharmacists have the same education and training requirements as relief and regular pharmacists, and handle the same job responsibilities when they work in a pharmacy. The difference between a relief and a locum pharmacist is how they are hired and how their credentials are verified.

Where a relief pharmacist finds jobs and has their credentials verified through a job-matching site or agency, locum pharmacists are freelance workers and must self-report their credentials. This means that they have to find open pharmacy shifts themselves, usually by contacting local pharmacies and offering their services if needed. A pharmacy manager also needs to verify a locum pharmacist’s credentials, which takes extra time and can slow down the job selection process. 

A locum pharmacist has the flexibility to choose which jobs they take, but the work is often sporadic. While the pay may be good per contracted job, the money can be inconsistent if too much time passes between shifts. 

How Much Does Each Shift Worker Make?

While relief pharmacists and locum pharmacists are nearly identical jobs, the pay is different for these shift workers. 

  • Relief pharmacists earn an average of $89,700 per year, which comes out to around $46 per hour. 
  • Locum pharmacists earn an average of $79,950 per year, which comes out to around $41 per hour. 

As with any job, pay rates vary based on experience, location, and contract negotiations. 

Relief vs Locum Pharmacists: Work-Life Balance 

In general, most pharmacy jobs offer a good work-life balance. Relief and locum pharmacists also have this flexibility, but there are some differences. 

Relief pharmacists are matched with open relief shifts through job-matching resources. This means that they don’t always have control over when they work, or where. However, the work hours are typically 9–5, so there is still time to enjoy life after work. 

Since locum pharmacists usually work as freelancers, they have the ability to pick and choose jobs as needed. Picking shifts gives more flexibility but can also lead to inconsistent work and pay. This means that locum pharmacists may work when they don’t necessarily want to, in order to make their required income. 

Where Do Relief and Locum Pharmacists Fit in Health Care?

In 2020, there were 44,094 pharmacists in Canada and the industry is expected to keep growing. With so many pharmacists who need shifts covered from time to time, there will always be a need for relief or locum pharmacists. Additionally, since these pharmacists must have all the same education and training, they can easily fit into any job and maintain high-quality patient care. 
If you would like to learn more about relief pharmacists vs locum pharmacists, contact the team at ShiftPosts. ShiftPosts is a job-matching app that helps pharmacists fill open shifts by pairing pharmacy owners with qualified, pre-vetted relief pharmacists.

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