FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A nationwide pharmacist shortage continues, but some say that it has an even greater impact right here in northeast Indiana.

“Fort Wayne and the northeast Indiana region seems to be especially hard hit,” said Sara Trovinger, Doctor of Pharmacy Distance Pathway and Program Director at Manchester College of Pharmacy.

She said northeast Indiana has been hit harder due to pharmacists relocating to bigger cities and others retiring early due to COVID-19.

So what can be done?

First, Trovinger said Manchester is trying to make it easier for students to get into the field.

“As soon as they graduate, we are working with them to take that licensing exam so we can get them into the pharmacy pool quicker,” Trovinger said.

Bundling tests so they can be taken more quickly is another strategy that Manchester has employed.

“Decreasing the number of licensing exams, not decreasing the quality, but can we combine exams together so they don’t have to schedule multiple exams,” Trovinger said.

Education is another big aspect of growing the pool of pharmacists.

One looming issue is that from a high school diploma, it takes a minimum of six years in Indiana to get a degree to become a pharmacist. To get ahead of an ever-increasing deficit, Trovinger said pharmacy schools across the nation are emphasizing high school education.

“All of the pharmacy colleges in the United States are working together to put together a program called ‘Pharmacy For You,'” Trovinger said. “It’s really focused at high school students, telling them why they want to be a pharmacist.”

And beyond schooling, Trovinger said employers are trying to make working situations more lucrative to attract workers.

“I had an employer coming in and they were offering my students right out of graduation $100,000 signing bonuses and $70 an hour,” Trovinger said.