Advanced Training and Education Opportunities as a Pharmacy Technician

Advanced pharmacy technician roles are on the rise, with new certification programs available for students to utilize, according to a session at the ASHP (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists) 54th Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition in Las Vegas.

Advanced pharmacy technician roles are on the rise, with new certification programs available for students to utilize, according to a session at the ASHP (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists) 54th Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition in Las Vegas.

An overview of the pharmacy technician landscape was presented by Tiffany Kofroth, CPhT, CSPT, PhTR, who went into detail about the new education and training requirements that are available to obtain a CPhT. By either completion of a PTCB-recognized education and training program, or 500 hours of work experience, one can then submit an attestation to officially become a pharmacy technician.

A new exam, called PTCE 3.0, will be implemented in January 2020 as a blueprint focused on key areas relevant across practice settings. The program will cross over both the health system setting, and the community setting, and prioritizes medications, federal requirements, patient safety and quality assurance, and order entry and processing.

Many innovative technician roles exist that are not as known but equally important, including quality assurance technicians, sterile compounding instructors, business systems analysts, and billing and insurance specialists. “As a technician, until 2017, we really didn’t have any advanced roles for the technician in their workplace,” Kofroth said. “Now that we have all of these fabulous roles that are available, we are seeing more technicians go for those advanced roles and actually climb up that career ladder,” which ranges from an entry level technician to an analyst or education role.

During the session, Sanchita Sen, PharmD, BCPS, focused on medication reconciliation, and the importance of becoming a pharmacy technician in a medication reconciliation program. The problem that comes with medication history and reconciliation is that 60% of medication errors occur at admission, transfer, or discharge, which can increase adverse events, healthcare costs, and discrepancies, according to Sen. When completing an accurate medication reconciliation, allergy discrepancies, medication discrepancies, and adverse drug events are immensely reduced.

“Sometimes there is a discussion about medication history, and medication reconciliation,” Sen said. “I think the reason this is so important is because medication history is very task-based, being the gathering of the information, and doing the preliminary medication reconciliation that comparison really focused on where the technicians will really help and grow.”

When discussing the steps of developing a pharmacy technician-centered medication reconciliation program, Sen told the audience that there are 3: start, build, and sustain. “We work on sustaining our program the first time we start building it,” Sen said. “Sometimes if we don’t have that backing, keeping a program going, it’s easy to fall flat as we go through it.”

Many of the newly implemented technician programs, such as at Cooper University Hospital and Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, focus on important resources that pharmacy technicians need for the real world, including how to print patient and medication lists, how to conduct patient interviews, and how to interpret external medication history. Communication skills, such as knowing when to ask the patients more questions, was something Sen emphasized during her presentation. In addition, she found during her previous studies that technicians with retail experience have an upper hand in the workforce. “The technicians that we hired that had retail experience were excellent,” Sen said. “They had that insight of knowing all the brand and generic names, there was a learning curve for other types of technicians.”

In the last portion of the presentation, Noah J. Franz, PharmD, MHA, discussed how Tech-Check-Tech (TCT) programs have evolved in the past decade, creating new opportunities for technicians so the pharmacist can focus and expand on their own clinical activities.

Many oppositions and barriers come with being a TCT, including many who say that there is too much documentation and tracking work, lack of standardized education and competency assessments, and increased workplace stress without increased pay. However, with new programs being implemented, such as Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin’s statewide TCT program, TCTs could show their abilities to advance in the field. “With the right training and right skill set, pharmacy techs can do advanced things in advanced roles and do them really well,” Franz said.

To close the presentation, Franz emphasized the need to invest in technicians as much as we invest in our pharmacists in order to see success. “If you do something for your pharmacist staff and you want your tech to take over something the pharmacist are doing so they can advance, you have to invest in your tech just like you do your pharmacist,” Franz said.

Investments, such as paying for additional certifications, and joining national organizations, are often overlooked for technicians, which is something Franz wants to change. “As professionals, we need to start saying, ‘when do we take the ‘technician’ out of ‘advanced technician roles’ and say ‘we have advanced pharmacy roles?’”

REFERENCES

Kofroth T, Sen S, Franz N. Pharmacy technician workforce: advanced credentials support innovative roles. Presented at: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists 54th Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition; Las Vegas, Nevada: December 10, 2019.