Expert: The Role and Career Advancement of Pharmacy Technicians

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Pharmacy technicians can expand their skills to explores career growth.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times, Zachary Green, CPhT Associate Director of Professional Affairs, PTCB discusses the different types of pharmacy technicians and regulations they face depending on their work setting. Green also talks about how some states now have pharmacy technician seats on regulatory boards. He discusses how advanced training and credentials can help technicians take on more roles and responsibilities. Green also emphasizes that these steps demonstrate commitment and allow technicians to advance while supporting pharmacists and the overall practice.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

Just to start, can you explain the different types of pharmacy technicians and if there are any different rules for technicians depending on where they work?

Zachary Green

Definitely. So, there are a number of practice settings for pharmacy technicians. You can have community pharmacy, you can have health system pharmacy, long term care, mail order many types of practice settings. But oftentimes what a pharmacy technician does and how the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines what a pharmacy technician is, is filling a prescription in assistance with a pharmacist under the supervision of a pharmacist. There are a number of ways pharmacy technicians are regulated across the United States and Territories. That's registration, licensure, and sometimes certification is a pathway for that. So, registration and licensure are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Registration is the process of really just pharmacy technicians being on a registry or a database with the State Board of Pharmacy. Whereas licensure is usually more detail oriented with a process for a government or authoritative body like a board of pharmacy, where you apply, and they grant you permission — an individual to practice as a professional. So, licensure often grants the right to use a professional title, performance specific duties that unlicensed eligible individuals are not normally permitted to do. We use the terms registration and licensure really interchangeably, but as you can see, they are pretty different. With registration, it usually requires a fee and a background check, fingerprinting, things like that. Licensure comes with that too, but it's usually more intense with maintaining that license, so earning continuing education, and sometimes, because we use them so interchangeably, sometimes registration also requires continuing education to maintain that registration.

I do want to mention certification here too, because a lot of times certification is even used interchangeably with registration and licensure. But registration and licensure are really put forward and put in place by Boards of Pharmacy, where a certification is done independently. Oftentimes, certification is used as a pathway to registration or licensure. However, certification is entirely different, because it's not directly involved with the State Board of Pharmacy. I just really wanted to point that out.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

Key Takeaways

  1. Pharmacy technicians have opportunities to get involved in their state regulatory boards, with 18 states now reserving seats for them.
  2. Pursuing additional training and credentials gives technicians career advancement pathways and allows them to take on more roles in the pharmacy.
  3. When technicians expand their skills, it benefits both the individual's career and helps pharmacists work at the top of their license.

Moving to the next question, can you share some examples of how technicians are involved in the regulatory boards?

Zachary Green

Yeah, definitely. This is really exciting for me to talk about. I've been with PTCB for a little over 10 years now. And when I started, there were 3 states that had pharmacy technicians serving on boards of pharmacy, we're at 18 now. There are 18 state boards that offer a seat that's reserved specifically for pharmacy technician. There is a state that has 2 seats for pharmacy technicians, and some of the states might have that seat available for pharmacy technicians. What's really great about this is pharmacy technicians are practicing in the profession, alongside pharmacists. I think it's worth a lot to have a pharmacy technician, be a part of those regulation conversations and making the rules for the practice as it pertains in those states.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

That's great. That's a huge accomplishment, too, so that's wonderful. Can you get a preview of the types of training or credentials employers might encourage to support technician careers?

Zachary Green

One way we've seen training and credentials being used by employers is creating career ladders, or career lattices is a new term that I've been hearing in recent years. It's where you don't necessarily have to move vertically, but you could move horizontally, or you could move diagonally in the organization. There are quite a few employers that are implementing these advanced trainings and PTC credentials as requirements for certain job codes. Or they're even offering other incentivization like a raise or promotion or things like that for earning those additional credentials.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

This is going off that question again. But how do the advanced credentials benefit both the pharmacy technicians, but also the overall pharmacy practice?

Zachary Green

That's a great question too. Advanced credentials show that a technician is committed to a career — continuously learning, developing new skills and commitment to a career is recognized by the profession in creating advanced roles for pharmacy technician. In order for a pharmacist to practice at the top of their license, a technician can really assist with all the distributed functions and a pharmacy. Additionally, if you take the COVID-19 pandemic, as an example, our profession was essentially forced to innovate in order to get vaccinations out, pharmacy technician stepped up and quickly began to learn immunization administration techniques at applying it in the workplace. This is a huge strive for our profession, because we all know the benefit of immunizations. Now, 40 state boards right now— at the time of this conversation, are permitting pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations other than COVID, beyond the prep act. Like I said, that's 40 today, this could change very quickly. That's a great example of having a pharmacy technician earn that additional credential, because they've learned and applied those additional skills. And then that's helping that person create a career out of being a pharmacy technician. Then as it pertains to helping the workforce, it goes back to allowing the pharmacists to practice the top of their license and opens up for more responsibilities for the pharmacy technicians.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

Definitely, it's really exciting seeing that new transition of the role of technicians. That's all the questions that I had, but anything else that you'd like to add?

Zachary Green

I would just like to put out there that we hear a lot that like, 'you're asking more of me, but am I going to get paid more' and things like that. I think if you're going to take the career of being a pharmacy technician, seriously, it's really important to invest in yourself. Somebody will see your worth, and they will reward you for your commitment to the profession, of being a pharmacy technician. If you're a pharmacy technician, and you're interested, in learning more and expanding your skills and expanding your knowledge, there's so many resources out there for you. You can attend all your State Board of Pharmacy meetings. They're public, so you can find out what's going on directly from the State Board of Pharmacy. Even if it's not happening in your state, it's really good to find out what's happening in other states because something might happen in your pharmacy or in your state and that you can help implement in your pharmacy. I would also like to say too, if you're a pharmacist, and you have technicians who you want to encourage them to be career technicians, coach them along — we are curious. I think it's a great time to be a pharmacy technician. I would encourage pharmacists to encourage other pharmacy technicians to grow their career as well.

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