Experts Discuss Differences in Role of Pharmacy Technicians in Various Countries

In a panel, pharmacy technicians across the world discuss the differences of the role for pharmacy technicians in United States, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.

Q: How is the role of pharmacy technicians different in your country versus other country?

João José Joaquim: Well, as far as I know, in Europe, that's the situation I understand better. There are similar roles depends on the responsibility because there are different levels of education and training. This gives you different tasks and different responsibilities on the teams. We work also in the hospitals with the pharmacies and in community pharmacies. I think the difference is the level of responsibility that is linked with the education and training, because there are different ways in Europe for training pharmacy technicians. It’s more or less, the same role, but with different levels of responsibility.

Samantha Quaye: I think it's difficult to stay without knowing what the roles are like in the other countries, I think just talking to peers around the world, that sounds very glamorous, talking to peers around the world, I think we have very similar roles. I think when people think of pharmacy technicians, traditionally, they think of just dispensing medicine. There's so much more to the role than that; there are so many different roles within the profession. I think I would say, I don't know how different it is in terms of the United Kingdom compared to other countries. But we are really fortunate that there are such different variety of roles.

I think we have that regulation, which gives us that accountability and increasing autonomy, I think we have the opportunities now to create more advanced practice as we go forward. We do have roles that have been considered advance now being kind of merged into more initial education and training. There's the opportunity to advance even further post qualification and post registration.

As an example, there are some places in the country where we have pharmacy technician clinically screening chemotherapy prescription, which traditionally has always been a pharmacist role. It is highly protocol, it would have to have very specialist training to do that. It's safe. I think, previously, that wouldn't have been something that would have been considered. It's probably something that's not that well known around the world, but those things are starting to happen, and those advances are starting to happen. I think in the United Kingdom, at least we are having those conversations and the awareness is being raised about the pharmacy technician role.

Tiffany Kofroth: We really started working on it, I would say around 2015. We've really started to provide these advanced roles and advanced certifications for technicians within the field of pharmacy. We talked about already getting that national exam to become a pharmacy technician. That's the first step. Then there's things called assessment-based certifications that are available with PTCB, which is one of the organizations that we have in the United States. There are probably about 10 specialty certifications right now, and they range depending on what their job role is within their current career.

I work at MD Anderson Cancer Center, so we do a lot of cancer therapy. We have a hazardous drug management specialty certification here that we have for our technicians and that's available across the nation. Then there's also specialty certifications for sterile compounding. There are special certifications for controlled substances, technician product verification, which is a technician who would check the actual medications that are not going to specific patients. However, they're being put into automated dispensing cabinets for the nursing staff and the physicians to take out of that automated dispensing cabinet when required. There are also roles in billing and reimbursement. The list goes on and on.