Advanced Techs Elevate Medication Safety and Patient Care

Pharmacy Times, January 2020, Volume 86, Issue 1

New PTCB credentials help strengthen the team and free up time for pharmacists.

Every pharmacist has a story behind the choice to pursue a career in pharmacy.

For me, it was my first job as a clerk at an independent pharmacy that solidified my desire to become a pharmacist. I remember many things about my time there: the patients who relied on the pharmacists as their go-to health experts, the delivery driver who made customers laugh, and the dedicated pharmacy technicians who were the first point of contact for everyone who walked through the pharmacy’s doors.

Those techs were important to not only patients but also every aspect of the pharmacy’s operations. They taught me everything I needed to know to be successful in my first pharmacy job and laid the foundation for my future pharmacy experiences. Above all, they played a critical role in medication safety, the most important measure in our profession.

At the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), we focus solely on advancing medication and patient safety by credentialing techs who are qualified to support pharmacists and patient care teams in all practice settings. We also care a great deal about building a sustainable career ladder for dedicated techs.

From our conversations with boards of pharmacy, educators, employers, and professional organizations, it is evident that our profession’s desire to allow pharmacists to provide services and be more involved in direct patient care presents an exciting opportunity to position techs and help them achieve this goal.

A number of states have taken a progressive approach to allowing techs to do more. For example, techs in Idaho and Rhode Island are now allowed to administer immunizations, and several other states are exploring implementation of this task, as well. Eighteen states allow qualified techs to perform the final check of a prescription (ie, tech product verification [TPV]). New Hampshire’s Board of Pharmacy is writing rules to create a “licensed advanced pharmacy technician” designation that will allow techs to take on even more responsibility in pharmacies throughout the state. Importantly, a number of state boards of pharmacy are ensuring that techs have a voice by designating board seats for them.

The evolving professional and regulatory landscape means that techs are increasingly immersed in a variety of advanced responsibilities. That is why we are proud to support the profession’s advancement efforts by launching a new suite of credentials for techs to demonstrate their knowledge in specialty areas.

These include the Advanced Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT-Adv) certification, scheduled to launch in 2020 and supported by 5 assessment-based certificate programs designed for advanced tech roles. These programs are an important step in helping PTCB certified pharmacy technicians (CPhTs) achieve recognition for their education and training, advanced knowledge in specific roles, and commitment to medication safety. To apply for a certificate program, active CPhTs must complete a PTCB recognized education/training program or fulfill other prerequisites. The first 2 certificate programs, in medication history and TPV, launched in mid-October. The third, in hazardous drug management, will be available in early 2020. We will also introduce 2 more certificate programs, one in billing and reimbursement and the other in controlled substance diversion prevention, later in 2020.

To be eligible for the CPhT-Adv certification, a tech must be a PTCB CPhT in good standing, have 3 years of work experience, and complete, 4 of the 5 certificate programs, or the Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician certification and 3 certificates. The CPhT-Adv credential will be available in mid-to-late 2020. Visit ptcb.org for more information about our assessment-based certificate program and the CPhT-Adv.

When tech roles are elevated, the pharmacy team is strengthened and pharmacists have more time to focus on patient care services, something to which our profession has long aspired. The only way we can advance as a profession is by bringing the entire team along with us, and these new credentials provide a way to do just that.

Ryan Burke, PharmD, is the director of professional affairs at the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board in Washington, DC.