Empowering Pharmacy Technicians: A Comprehensive Apprenticeship Program

Publication
Article
Pharmacy CareersSpring 2024
Volume 18
Issue 01

An inclusive apprenticeship program aligns with evolving roles, fosters growth, and positively affects patient care.

In response to the evolving landscape of pharmacy practice and the increasing demand for well-trained professionals, a decision was made by the Memorial Healthcare System in Florida to offer the Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship Program. This comprehensive program was designed to prepare future pharmacy technicians for a dynamic role participating in patient care.

pharmacy technician checking medicine in pharmacy | Image Credit: Atstock Productions - stock.adobe.com

Image Credit: Atstock Productions - stock.adobe.com

The Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship Program acknowledges the changing responsibilities of pharmacy technicians, aligning with progressive state laws and statutes that grant them more freedom in their defined roles. The program is carefully crafted to meet stringent certification requirements imposed at both national and state levels. Its overarching goal is to foster confidence, leadership, and professional skills among apprentices. This goal is achieved by empowering apprentices through training that incorporates best practices, enabling them to autonomously apply their skills at the highest level of competence before obtaining their license.

As a registered employer-based pharmacy technician training program, the initiative supports professional growth and development with the objective of helping apprentices qualify for registration with the Florida Board of Pharmacy (FL-BOP) as pharmacy technicians. Graduates are then able to pursue entry-level positions in various pharmacy settings. The program offers a comprehensive and interactive curriculum combining didactic and experiential/clinical education designed to meet and exceed the FL-BOP’s minimum training requirements, ensuring apprentices gain a deep understanding of the pharmacy technician’s scope of practice.

pharmacy technician’s scope of practice.

In our program, apprentices are required to dedicate a minimum of 16 duty hours per week, organized into shift blocks of at least 4 hours. Coordination of the training period with the facilitator is mandatory, and apprentices must meet all deadlines for experiential/clinical instruction, 6-month competencies, and logging of hours. The application process includes submitting a comprehensive pharmacy technician apprentice application along with necessary documents, including a letter of intent, curriculum vitae, school transcripts, and a reference letter.

The experiential portion is covered without an additional cost for the apprentice. As the employer sponsoring the apprentice, we are responsible for enrolling them in the online didactic training program upon acceptance. What differentiates us from technical schools or community colleges is that we provide compensation for experiential hours, allowing us to sell the program as a scholarship opportunity.

Graduates of the program are well positioned to enter the workforce. After finishing the program, apprentices may choose to pursue higher education and certification by becoming a certified pharmacy technician. Of our graduates, 3 have pursued certification, with 1 graduate receiving immediate certification and the others waiting 6 months. The program’s immersive approach not only adds new loyal staff but also builds retention among current staff, transforming them into mentor/preceptor pharmacy technicians with enhanced leadership skills.

Having graduated 8 apprentices, the program has demonstrated its effectiveness in preparing individuals for the challenges of the pharmacy technician role. These apprentices, aged 19 to 56 years, showcase the program’s inclusivity and adaptability to diverse learners. Recognizing the varying paces at which individuals grasp concepts, the program incorporates online modules that allow learners to proceed at their own speed. This flexibility is crucial, as some students complete the modules in as little as 3 weeks whereas others may take up to 8 weeks to fully grasp the material. Embracing the diversity in learning styles has become a hallmark of the program, emphasizing that everyone progresses differently.

The opening orientation is an essential program component, particularly significant for learners unfamiliar with pharmacy settings. Many of these individuals have never stepped foot in a pharmacy, so setting expectations is vital. Clearly outlining job duties, understanding the job structure, and explaining organizational hierarchy during the orientation contribute to a smoother transition for apprentices.

The program strongly emphasizes job shadowing at the outset to further acclimate learners to the pharmacy environment. Allowing apprentices to observe the pharmacy operations for a few weeks before starting classes provides valuable context, helping them better connect the theoretical concepts from the online course to real-world practices. We have discovered that students have the most difficulty with the online math modules. After feedback from the first cohort of apprentices, we purchased additional materials to provide further support and reinforce understanding in these challenging areas. We have also offered one-on-one tutoring to these learners.

About The Authors

Jacob Saling, PharmD, CPh, is a Pharmacy Supervisor at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. He serves as the site coordinator for the Pharmacy Technician Apprentice Program.

Rama Atwan, BSPharm, is a P4 student at Nova Southeastern University's College of Pharmacy and matched with Memorial Regional Hospital for a PGY1 residency. She spent 6 weeks with Saling on an administration elective, serving as a facilitator to technician apprentices.

Learners indicated that an opportunity of the program was to provide more instruction related to the retail side of pharmacy. This subject appeared on their final examination and frequently caused stress due to the lack of experience. As a result, we partnered with our health system–owned retail facilities. This collaboration allows apprentices to gain practical experience in retail pharmacy settings, addressing concerns about test questions related to retail pharmacy on the certification examination. Through collaboration with retail sites within the health care system, the program not only enriches the knowledge of apprentices but also offers valuable support to these sites during peak periods.

The Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship Program has evolved into a dynamic and responsive initiative. As it continues to graduate individuals with diverse backgrounds and ages, the program’s adaptability, inclusivity, and commitment to continuous improvement shine through. The integration of online learning, tailored orientations, and strategic partnerships demonstrates a proactive approach to addressing the challenges that apprentices face. By nurturing pharmacy technicians’ technical and interpersonal skills, the program contributes to the profession’s growth and positively affects patient care outcomes.

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