A guide to promoting effective communication among your pharmacy technicians.
Good communication is perhaps more important in health care than in any other field. According to the National Healthcareer Association’s (NHA) 2021 Industry Outlook, employers stated effective communication as 1 of the 3 most important soft skills for pharmacy technicians to have.
That’s because as a pharmacist, it’s your job to provide the best possible care for your clients. With that comes the need for clear, effective communication between you and your pharmacy technicians.
When communication breaks down, it can cause serious patient safety issues. A study of 10 years’ worth of medical errors found that 66% were caused by ineffective team communication.
Pharmacy teams are no exception. As the bridge between the pharmacist and the patient, it’s especially important for pharmacists to promote and help build good communication skills for their pharmacy technicians.
Let’s talk about how you, the pharmacist, can help support good communication, as well as the impact it has on the success of your business.
Promote Relationship Building
As the leader within the pharmacy, your team’s relationship is built on the foundation you provide. By promoting and maintaining positive relationships with your pharmacy technicians, you set the expectation for them to do the same in their professional interactions. It’s essential for pharmacy technicians to develop and maintain good relationships with everyone involved in a patient’s care.
Providers prefer to work with a pharmacy they can trust to provide a good patient experience. Pharmacy technicians are the bridge between the pharmacy, the provider, and the patient, and often are the primary person interacting with providers and patients.
In some ways, they’re the face of your pharmacy. If a provider thinks a pharmacy is making it difficult for their patient to get the proper care, they’ll think twice about sending anyone else there. Pharmacy technicians with excellent communication and relationship skills can help enhance the overall patient experience.
Expect Teamwork and Delegation
Communication is also a vital part of building good relationships between members of the pharmacy team. When you empower your pharmacy technicians to communicate with the team, take on more responsibility, and delegate tasks, you have more time to optimize your advanced knowledge and skills in more meaningful ways.
As a pharmacist, set the expectation that communication between team members is a priority, and empower pharmacy technicians to delegate tasks. This promotes effective communication because in order to delegate, pharmacy technicians have to give instructions and explain tasks in ways that team members can clearly understand. Good communication skills help pharmacy technicians identify what resonates best with each person, as well as how to tailor the message to ensure it is properly received.
Not only will the pharmacy technician expand their communication skills, but you’ll also be able to spend less time explaining as well as continue to delegate more complex tasks to your pharmacy technicians as they learn.
Prioritize Patient Satisfaction
Your pharmacy wouldn’t be what it is without patients, and maintaining patients comes down to customer service. Oftentimes, the first person a patient will interact with is a pharmacy technician. And that first interaction’s success is based almost entirely on communication.
Being friendly is one aspect of good customer service, but it’s far from the only one. Helping patients understand co-pays, answering medication or dosage questions, letting patients know their options if their insurer denies coverage—all of these factor into how patients view their pharmacy experience.
Just like with team communication, good patient communication also depends on pharmacy technicians’ ability to identify and adapt to the communication style that is most comfortable for the patient.
Nonverbal communication skills are important for patient satisfaction as well. For example, maybe a patient has questions about their new medication, but there’s a line and they don’t want to make others wait. Nonverbal communication skills will help the technician pick up on the patient’s discomfort, and they can then apply their verbal communication skills to help address the patient’s needs.
Stress the Importance of Patient Safety and Order Accuracy
Over the years, patients’ needs have become more complex, and, as a result, patients are more likely to have different specialists for different needs. In order to ensure patient safety and overall wellbeing, good communication skills are indispensable to navigating the various members of a patient’s care team. Stressing the importance of this communication can ensure your pharmacy technicians are providing the best possible care for your patients.
If one specialist prescribes a medication that could interact negatively with a medication prescribed by another specialist, the pharmacy technician is one of the last lines of defense protecting the patient from an adverse interaction. But without communication skills, they may not know how to address it with the pharmacist, the providers, or even the patient.
By the same token, pharmacy technicians are often the last people to verify an order before it’s given to the patient. If someone on the team has made an error, the pharmacy technician needs to be comfortable communicating their concerns or addressing the error appropriately. The more access you give your pharmacy technicians to open, honest communication, the more comfortable they’ll feel in those circumstances.
A Tool for Your Pharmacy Technicians
On the job training is a valid way to gain experience in soft skills like communication, but as a pharmacist, you’re likely too busy to give extra attention to training your technicians. That’s where a training resource like NHA’s virtual simulation learning tool, PersonAbility™ can help.
NHA’s interactive, all-in-one learning and assessment tool can equip current and aspiring technicians to handle typical, day-to-day interactions with ease. With this tool, you can have more time back in your day to focus on advanced tasks, while knowing your technicians are bettering their communication and other important soft skills.
In PersonAbility™, your pharmacy technicians will find interactive lessons where they can hone their skills in a variety of different areas, including:
Pharmacy technicians learn the importance of effective communication and ways to improve communication before putting those skills to work with interactive practice examples. As an added bonus, PersonAbility™ is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) for 9 hours of continuing education for both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
Your pharmacy is only as good as the team supporting it, and pharmacy technicians play a significant role in team performance. With practice and interactive training modules from PersonAbility™, pharmacy technicians can improve their communication skills to improve performance and become an even more valuable part of the pharmacy team.