Expert: "Philosophical" About Pharmacy Services, How Community Health Worker Training Can Bolster Technician’s Role


Community health worker training can allow the technician to perform to the top of their abilities and improve access to the pharmacy’s public health services.

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP, the Chief Pharmacy Officer at Health Mart, a part of McKesson Corporation, expands on her first conversation with Pharmacy Times at McKesson ideaShare 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she discussed the merits of community health worker training for pharmacy technicians. In the second segment of our interview, Lyons lists a variety of programs that support CHW training, emphasizes training can bolster the technician and the entire pharmacy’s services, and gets candid about rolling out the program.

PT Staff: How is community health worker (CHW) training connected to pharmacy?

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP: It's growing. In the video that we are going to show tomorrow on the mainstage presentation, we have a whole focus kicking off in the Public Policy session about that. We actually went into a pharmacy where 2 pharmacy technicians have recently been trained, and the connection is astounding. There was a delivery driver technician that was representative of the community out there, but only thought of himself as a driver for Uber and Lyft for medications. With a little bit of extra training, he went through community health worker training (CHW) and now he's doing in-home assessments when he's dropping off those medications; he's documented as part of the patient care plan and really has that further connection. But that not only helps the patients that you've seen, but also bolsters his career and makes him have more job satisfaction, which I think is what anyone would want with their careers.

PT Staff: It seems like CHW training allows for more personalization in pharmacy’s approach to patient care.

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP: Exactly, and that's part of the whole pharmacies approach to health care. Pharmacies in general have been that trusted site, especially in some of the rural and underserved communities, where public health resources might be at least hidden, if not need some bolstering themselves. So with that, they are able to make those further connections and just connect back up to the pharmacist services as well. What we're also doing with pharmacy technicians is making sure that they are working at the top of their training, skills, and abilities so pharmacists can retire. It just makes the whole team better and the patient care of higher quality that's delivered.

Credit: Karanov images -

Credit: Karanov images -

PT Staff: What is being done to support technicians who want to become CHWs?

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP: There are a couple of ways. I mean, 1 is just with awareness and education. There are a lot of people that don't really understand what a CHW is (or does) or how to become one. And so it's raising that awareness. It's communicating about quality technician training programs, like the program that continuing education (CE) Impact, McKesson’s education partner, offers. We also know that, especially in the independent practice, sometimes coming up with the training dollars before a program is proven or before there's a revenue stream can be a challenge. So McKesson was happy in January to unveil a fellowship program, in partnership with CE Impact, to allow pharmacy technicians to earn scholarships by taking the 60-week training program.

Honestly, I was a little nervous when we rolled it out with the way that we rolled it out over social media, just kind of saying any pharmacy technician—regardless of your status with McKesson as a customer—sign up and take this training; do more with your career. I was worried that it was going to kind of fall flat after the holidays, but we have such a response. The first cohort filled up so quickly and the second cohort filled up quickly. And 1 of the things we're announcing here at the show is that, with the initial 60 spots, McKesson found some more dollars to double it. So there will be another registration and application period, we're seeing impact with 2 more cohorts that will go through the end of the year, just to help get those pharmacy technicians that want to make a difference and opportunity to do that.

PT Staff: What could CHW training look like in 5 years? How could the role of the CHW expand?

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP: I tend to get really philosophical about what pharmacy can do. We saw, during COVID-19, that pharmacy technician stepped up and did some incredible things—pharmacists do some incredible things. One of the big issues with pharmacist services is being able to work to the top of their licenses; credentials always [takes] time. But it's not really time if pharmacists think about it. It's portioning off the work that they're doing and making sure that they have a strong team to let them do the things that they've mentioned to the health workers; it just make total sense for all of the public/private partnerships that have already been formed to tackle chronic conditions. So, [that means] going after diabetes and being those coaches to get into care, to link to the pharmacist’s provided services but really find a place for those pharmacy technicians to do all they can do.

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