Karen Berger, PharmD
Karen Berger, PharmD, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2001. She has worked in community pharmacies for over 17 years as a Pharmacist in Charge, staff, and floater pharmacist for a large chain. Currently, she is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in Northern NJ. She can be reached at email@example.com
I have always believed that pharmacy technicians are worth their weight in gold. They are quite skilled at doing just about anything in the pharmacy.
Kimberly McKeirnan, PharmD, BCACP, is a clinical assistant professor at Washington State University (WSU) and is on the front lines of getting technicians certified to give immunizations. For the last 5 years, Dr McKeirnan has been the instructor for the WSU PharmD student course that discusses immunization content. A colleague involved with the Idaho State Board of Pharmacy mentioned to her that technicians in Idaho would soon have the opportunity to provide immunizations and suggested that Dr McKeirnan might like to write a training program. She knew immediately that she wanted to be involved and began to create the training program.
Dr. McKeirnan and her former resident, Kyle Frazier, PharmD, wrote the program together and they were the original trainers. They taught all of the technicians (from Albertsons and Safeway pharmacies in Idaho) for the first 6 months before expanding the program to include a train-the-trainer option. At that time, Dr. McKeirnan also brought in an academic fellow from WSU, Taylor Bertsch, PharmD, who also began training along with Dr. McKeirnan and Dr. Frazier.
Dr McKeirnan opened each class by asking people to go around the room and introduce themselves and say why they decided to be part of the program. All of the technicians were volunteers and knew they were among the first in the country to be able to immunize, so Dr McKeirnan was curious to learn what drove them to be involved. The most common responses included: being excited for the new challenge of learning to immunize, being encouraged by the pharmacist to take on this advanced role, and wanting to be more hands-on with patients.
Dr. McKeirnan explains that when the technicians first learned to give vaccines, they were quite nervous, but no more than student pharmacists! With some practice and coaching, the process of giving vaccines ended up going very well. Dr McKeirnan and her colleagues have now trained more than 200 technicians and every technician who entered the program has successfully completed it.
The technician class involves 2 parts, a 2-hour self-study and a 4-hour live portion.
The self-study provides foundational knowledge, such as the more common vaccines and where to find the schedules.
The content from the live portion is focused on safety and administration technique and is almost identical to the content Dr McKeirnan uses to train student pharmacists. Pharmacists need to know more background information about vaccines, diseases, etc., but for technicians there is more of a focus on patient safety and correct injection technique. Dr McKeirnan emphasizes that the technician is playing a technical role while the pharmacist is responsible for anything considered clinical, such as counseling and checking the vaccine prescription for appropriateness.
Under Idaho Rule 330.03, approved in March 2017, a pharmacist may “delegate the technical task of administering an immunization to a student pharmacist or a certified technician”—in addition to being certified as a technician, techs complete CPR training, and complete an accredited training program.
Samantha Thompson, a Safeway Pharmacy Technician in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, became the first pharmacy technician in the country to administer an immunization.
From December 2016 to May 2017, technicians administered 953 vaccinations to patients with no adverse events.1
Dr. McKeirnan said she believes this will have a huge impact on community pharmacy. By reducing the time burden on pharmacists, she hopes this will create more time for pharmacists to provide additional clinical services such as MTM, CMR, and chronic disease state management. She is also hopeful that this will help technicians find career satisfaction and create an advanced role that integrates the technician as a more important part of the pharmacy team.
Dr. McKeirnan says she felt honored to be a part of the movement to advance technician roles. As a practicing pharmacist, she has firsthand experience with many talented technicians who are underutilized. She is proud to do everything she can to help outstanding technicians find a strong sense of accomplishment, job satisfaction, and career advancement.
I think this is an amazing development in pharmacy technician roles and responsibilities and I speculate that based on this successful outcome, more states will allow technicians to complete training as well. Maybe your next immunization will be given by a technician! (Or, maybe your technician will soon be giving immunizations to your patients, giving you time to breathe!)
For more on technician roles in Idaho, check out this video.
- McKeirnan KC, Frazier KR, Nguyen M, et al. Training pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations. JAPHA. 2018; 58(2):174-178. http://www.japha.org/article/S1544-3191(18)30004-9/pdf. Accessed March 20, 2018.
- WSU, Albertsons create first U.S. program allowing pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations [news release]. Spokane, Wash. Published April 18, 2017. https://news.wsu.edu/2017/04/18/pharmacy-technicians-to-immunize/. Accessed March 20, 2018.