Expanding the Role of Pharmacy Technicians

JULY 18, 2013
In his July editor’s note, Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS, argues that giving pharmacy technicians more responsibility could help make way for pharmacists to practice at the top of their license.
Here is an excerpt:
The expansion of the pharmacy technician's role could allow pharmacists to practice at the top of their license. One subject that gets many pharmacists emotional is the role that pharmacy technicians should play in pharmacy. My personal view is that the pharmacy technician’s role should be expanded to allow pharmacists to practice at the top of their license.
When I made that suggestion to student pharmacists they would agree initially. But when I offered a specific suggestion of what activity that might include, such as “independently” refilling prescriptions, I got a lot of push back. Patient safety was always the excuse used to justify their position. But in my mind, I thought the reason was more about job security. The same negative reaction was seen when I suggested this type of change to pharmacists themselves.
I thought this was only a concern among community pharmacists, but it is not. When my state pharmacy board, at the request of hospital pharmacy directors and after some demonstration projects that showed that it works, wanted to implement new regulations that would allow certified pharmacy technicians who had graduated from a pharmacy technician training program to perform “tech check tech” functions of filled unit dose carts, some hospital pharmacists got upset. Even though there was literature that demonstrated the safety of this activity and even though the checked carts were not going directly to a patient, some pharmacists were against it. Hospital pharmacists resisted because they saw that their job as a dispensing pharmacist might be eliminated.
Community pharmacists seemed to be against the use of pharmacy technicians in this way because they thought it might end up being expanded into their practice arena. When I proposed that these same technicians could safely perform a “tech check tech” role with refill prescriptions, I found myself with few friends. Even some of my academic colleagues thought I had lost my marbles.
Now that more pharmacy leaders are trying to create opportunities for pharmacists to practice at the top of their license, we may need to free pharmacists from being tied to the pill counting tray. Giving more responsibility to pharmacy technicians may be necessary. Who should make this decision? So I ask, “Who is in charge of pharmacy technicians?”
To read the rest of Mr. Eckel’s editor’s note, click here.

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