During the COVID-19 pandemic, like all of us, I could not help witness the extreme impact that it had on health care and our communities. There was an immediate need to highlight and maximize the role of pharmacy technicians by expanding their responsibilities in groundbreaking technology, medication safety, and vaccine distribution.
The excitement of these new responsibilities is contagious for technicians and provides hope for what the future might hold for their professional growth. Whether you are a new technician getting into the field or a seasoned professional, expanding technicians’ roles and responsibilities is a milestone within the profession and a game-changer within pharmacy for those who have a desire to be more involved and engaged with patients and other areas within the pharmacy. Technicians have come a long way from doing clerical work and filling prescriptions, and the scope of work has been dramatically broadened.
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Through increased patient engagement and expanded scope, greater pharmacy technician involvement has helped streamline other pharmacy operations. As technicians, we are now trained to conduct various pharmacy duties, which frees the pharmacist to manage more intricate challenges and other areas of care management. This is a collaborative effort that has been beneficial for both parties in providing a basic level of primary care to patients in our communities. In addition, it gives technicians a new and empowering sense of need, value, and potential for career growth and opportunity. During the global vaccination effort, our role as pharmacy technicians was, and remains, crucial. Specialized training for vaccine administration and the use of universal precautions while administering vaccines were critically important during the pandemic, in addition to providing patient education about the virus and potential treatment.
This article was submitted in partnership with NHA. NHA is building the next generation of allied health professionals. Since 1989, we have helped over 1.25 million people access a better future in healthcare. From innovative learning solutions to certification and career development, we partner with individuals, educators, and employers to elevate the learning experience, ensure practice and career readiness, and drive positive outcomes for the industry, allied health professionals, and ultimately patients.
An additional area that pharmacy technicians have embraced is electronic prescribing and telepharmacy services, which have reduced medication errors and improved efficiency. Technology and its advancements are here to stay, and play a vital role in electronic health records, pharmacy robotics, barcode scanning, and automation tools, which enhance accuracy and reduce wait times, thus streamlining pharmacy operations.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a particular area of interest for many, as well as an area of concern. AI can never replace human interaction, but it is advantageous for the industry. My experience working in one of the largest pharmacies in the United States (Grady Health Systems and Emory University Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia) is evidence of this: I have collaborated with robots to use electronic health records and barcode scanning for inventory purposes. We used a robot to perform repetitive common drug fulfillment, but assistance and oversight by the technicians are always needed to manage inventory, especially when production stops and troubleshooting is needed.
Pharmacy technicians rose to the occasion during the pandemic and continue to do so. The confined traditional roles grew to a broad spectrum of duties that will continue to evolve as health care grows. The expansion of responsibilities, integration of technology, support in vaccine distribution, and unwavering dedication to collaborative care stand as a testament to the indispensable worth of technicians in safeguarding medication safety and bringing more attention to the profession.
As pharmacy technicians, we demonstrate professionalism and compassion daily. We have the ability to collaborate with health care professionals in unison with a singular goal in mind: to improve the quality of patient care. As technicians, we continue to commit to patient safety with every interaction within the pharmacy, not only to elevate ourselves and promote quality care but to serve patients effectively and efficiently.
About the Author
June Haygood, CPhT, MPH, MBA, is a health care science educator. She is an advisor for HOSA—Future Health Professionals, an educator with Project Lead the Way, and an educator at Global Impact Academy with Fulton County Schools in Georgia.