Expert: The “Sweet Spot” To Expanding the Role of the Pharmacy Technician is Community Health Worker Training


Health Mart is offering a new basic training program with ASHP/ACPE accreditation for pharmacy technicians, along with accredited and non-accredited training.

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP, the Chief Pharmacy Officer at Health Mart, a part of McKesson Corporation, from Indianapolis, Indiana, joins Pharmacy Times to discuss the expanding role of the certified pharmacy technician, new education and training opportunities, and the benefits of additional training as a community health worker (CHW), at McKesson ideaShare 2023, Las Vegas, Nevada.

PT Staff: Tell me about the expanded pharmacy technician track featured in this year’s McKesson ideaShare program.

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP: I'm really excited about that extended pharmacy technician track. We heard from our pharmacy attendees of McKesson (last year’s) that they really needed help in that area. And it aligns with our mission of strengthening the health of pharmacies and elevating the role that the whole team plays in people's lives. So it was a no brainer. We kind of maxed it out— there are sessions, there's educational offerings, and roundtables. There's a lunch and a technician reception all to celebrate the activities and the successes that [technicians] really had. Beginning with the pandemic, I think we saw the spotlight on that. But really, their whole careers, pharmacy technicians have been such an integral part of delivering patient care, and it's time to celebrate them and bolster them and fortify their education offerings.

PT Staff: How else does Health Mart support the development of the pharmacy technician?

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP: That's really something my team focuses on quite a bit with our educational offerings. And so we start really at the beginning. So before somebody might even become a pharmacy technician, we have a couple of offerings that independent community pharmacies can choose to kind of level that playing field for getting the best talent behind the counter. And that's what we call our Basic Technician Training Program. And we also earned the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ASHP/ACPE) accreditation and pharmacy technician have an opportunity to participate in those programs, with qualified Health Mart becoming training sites for that program. That's in partnership with TRC and the content is solid. And it also helps them earn national certification—being a prerequisite for a couple of the board’s applications for those. That just extends to every day. We have an education platform for the whole pharmacy team that does both accredited and non-accredited training, we'll see things to earn continuing education (CE) credits to keep national certification, as well as opportunities to do some of the soft skills and things that they might need in their expanding roles.

PT Staff: What is a CHW?

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP: So a CHW is really somebody that's integrated into a community and helps them out to resources, I call them the “connection point”. They are a trusted member of the community, usually that mirrors the group that they're serving, so that there's the social equity piece that's already there and takes away some of that mistrust. But their job is just to be aware of all the resources that are available to solve health care barriers, break them down, match people to resources and get the whole community healthier.

PT Staff: What are some of the key differences between a CHW and a pharmacy technician?

Nancy Lyons, BSPharm, MBA, CDCES, VP: So there's really no requirement for a health care physician to be a CHW. There are social workers that might be CHW; there are just passionate people that know their communities that can serve CHW training.

I think where we found the sweet spot is pairing up the certified pharmacy technicians and giving them that additional training as a CHW. They're already there. They're already trusted. They tick off so many of the boxes already for the trust that the patients, and obviously the community members who shop in the pharmacy and come in— they know them so well. And they tell stories about their lives when they run into some of those barriers. The CHW training helps them to expand on things they already do. You'll see technicians helping to solve patient assistance programs with medication affordability, but this will open their eyes to the reasons they might be missing a doctor's appointment, which could be linked to transportation or could be linked to childcare. They're taking home medications that require refrigeration. If we don't know that the people might have housing issues, refrigeration is off the table. And so really being able to delve in and help people solve those issues that can be barriers can bring success to the community.

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