How Do Patients Perceive Pharmacy Technicians?

MAY 25, 2015
Ryan Marotta, CPhT, Assistant Editor
While pharmacy technicians have taken on increasingly important responsibilities, their roles on the pharmacy team often go unrecognized by the patients they serve.
 
According to Pharmacy Technician Certification Board executive director and CEO Colonel (Retired) Everett B. McAllister, RPh, MPA, many patients are unclear or unaware of technicians’ roles. Inpatients may not encounter technicians who work at hospitals, while technicians at community pharmacies are frequently confused for pharmacists, he explained.
 
“I don’t think patients really understand the folks they’re engaging,” McAllister told Pharmacy Times in an exclusive interview. “I think that there is much for the typical person to learn about what technicians do in the pharmacy to contribute to health.”
 
Thus, he encouraged pharmacy teams to educate patients on the responsibilities and importance of technicians.
 
“I think that the profession has to do more to clarify the role of the technician,” he said. “Part of that process is to clearly identify technicians’ capabilities and competency, and to explain how their efforts support the role of the pharmacist.”
 
Some technicians may find it flattering to be confused with the pharmacist, but many feel considerably discouraged when patients perceive them as cashiers or pill counters. For Hannah Peabody, CPhT, a technician at the Patient Rx Center of Hematology/Oncology Associates of Central New York in East Syracuse, New York, this misperception is particularly disheartening, given her training and experience.
 
“We’re usually the first people patients see when they walk into a pharmacy, but many of them don’t think that we’re as capable as we really are,” she told Pharmacy Times. “I wish that more patients would understand the knowledge that our job requires, or the education that we need to pursue and maintain certification.”
 
Andreea Tudosie, CPhT, a Long Term Care Operations Manager for Thrifty White Pharmacy, observed that patients’ attitudes towards technicians often reflect what they see behind the counter, giving pharmacists an essential role in improving public awareness of technicians’ roles.
 
“I think that the way technicians are perceived by the public ultimately goes back to the way they are perceived by the people with whom they work,” she stated. “When pharmacists treat their technicians with respect, that changes patients’ perceptions, and they begin to see technicians as important people within the pharmacy.”
 
Tudosie also strived to replicate the encouragement she received from pharmacists during her time as a technician trainer.
 
“The pharmacists with whom I’ve worked have empowered me and helped me to grow as a technician, and I’ve tried to pay that forward to new technicians,” she told Pharmacy Times. “It was particularly important for me to remind them that they aren’t ‘just technicians,’ as a way of helping them understand the importance of their role.”
 
Although many technicians feel the public perception of their profession is not ideal, some have seen it move in the right direction. Over the course of her 15-year career, Colleen Jenkins, CPhT, a pharmacy technician at St. Luke's Outpatient Pharmacy in Boise, Idaho, and the 2014 Next-Generation PharmacistTM Technician of the Year, has noticed a positive shift in the way her roles are understood by patients.
 
“The public is starting to view us as professionals,” Jenkins said. “Patients recognize that we’re not just standing at a cash register anymore, and that while we may not have a pharmacists’ educational background, we can still provide a high level of service and patient care.”
 
Jenkins added “it’s extremely rewarding when patients do see [technicians] as professionals.”
 
“It’s rewarding when I have allowed my patient to feel like they come first, that I really care about their needs, and that they have someone there to advocate for them,” she said.


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