Health Systems, Hospitals Suffer Pharmacy Technician Shortage, ASHP Survey Results Show

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Analysis from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists indicates turnover rates of at least 21% in 2021.

Analysis from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists shows frustration with pay, workload, and work schedules.

Health systems and hospitals are experiencing severe shortages of pharmacy technicians, with a majority of pharmacy administrators in a recent survey reporting turnover rates of at least 21% in 2021 and nearly 1 in 10 noting that they had lost 41% or more of their technicians, according to the results of a survey from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

Technicians help support patient care, with tasks including billing, handling hazardous drugs, inventory management, medication order distribution, sterile compounding of chemotherapy, and other medication and administrative functions.

In the survey, pharmacy administrators reported that they had implemented a variety of strategies to relieve the shortage, with nearly all increasing the use of overtime and about 9 in 10 tapping pharmacists to perform tasks usually handled by technicians.

“Pharmacy technicians play essential roles as members of the pharmacy team in hospitals and health systems and are integral to achieving optimal medication therapy care outcomes,” ASHP’s CEO Paul Abramowitz, PharmD, ScD (Hon), FASHP, said in a statement. “ASHP will continue to collect and share strategies for recruitment and retention for these crucial positions, promote technician training programs, and create resources to support their advancement as critical members of the health care team.”.

In a separate ASHP survey that included more than 5000 technicians, three-quarters of respondents said that higher pay would help with retention, and nearly one-quarter said that they would like employers to offer retention bonuses. One=quarter said they would like a career ladder with clear pathways to promotion.

In the other survey, three-quarters of pharmacy administration reported that they had offered base pay increases within the previous 11 months to attract and retain technicians. A majority also offered off-cycle pay raises and other hiring and retention incentives.

Compared with before 2021, more employers were offering to pay for certification and recertification, educational expenses, formal technician training, and licensing and registration fees for technicians.

Approximately 38% of employers implemented internal technician training programs. Generally, technicians reported strong job satisfaction, with approximately 54% citing their desire to help patients as a motivation to stay.

Additionally, they also identified supervising pharmacists as key, with nearly three-quarters of technicians indicating that this relationship contributes to their job satisfaction.

However, technicians said that they were often frustrated by heavy workloads, inadequate staffing, and low compensation levels.

Career ladders and flexible work scheduling can contribute to positive job satisfaction, they said.

Salary level was most often cited by technicians as a reason for leaving their jobs, with approximately three-quarters of respondents saying higher pay is the most retention tool.

“The survey highlights the reality that hospital pay scales, which are based on wage-grade systems, fail to reflect pharmacy technicians’ commitment to their role, their vital place on the team, and the complexity of their jobs,” Stan Kent, chief pharmacy officer at University of Michigan Health and an ASHP past president, said in the statement. “Technicians are essential contributors to the team, and the skills they develop on the job and through specialized training should be reflected in their pay if we want to retain them and continue to benefit from their skills and experience.”.

The ASHP conducted the 2 surveys in November 2021. The organization sent the pharmacy administrator survey to 1952 health system and hospital pharmacy executives and the technician survey to 74,448 participants using its own database and a second database from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board.

Reference

Hospitals and health systems experiencing severe shortage of pharmacy technicians. EurekAlert. News release. March 24, 2022. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/946443

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