Implementation of Pharmacy Technician Career Ladder Increases Job Satisfaction, Promotes Teamwork


Amid the current shortage in the pharmacy technician workforce, career ladder programs could improve pharmacy technician recruitment and retention rates.

After implementing a pharmacy technician career ladder in a health system, researchers found improved technician job satisfaction, increased teamwork, more technician development, and defined leadership pathways. These results were presented at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2021 Midyear Clinical Meeting.

Pharmacy technicians are essential team members to ensure safe, effective, and efficient patient care, although recruitment and retention of technicians has been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. To implement the pharmacy technician career ladder, a workgroup was convened with pharmacy leadership from each of the 5 facilities in the health system. These facilities included an urban level 1 trauma center, an academic teaching facility, community-based hospitals, and a psychiatric hospital.

Technical staffing requirements were determined by evaluating the service offerings and acuity of each facility. Existing technician positions were also evaluated and stratified by competencies critical to the role. These roles were organized into specialized titles that included controlled substances distribution and quality assurance, sterile compounding quality assurance, medication access coordinator, informatics, automation administrator, research lead, supervisor, medication history, and others.

Once these existing positions and competencies were identified, the strategic plans for system integration were considered in order to consolidate these roles between facilities, rather than expanding them into new specialized roles. Positions were graded into 4 career ladder levels, including entry level, advanced competency, specialized, and senior or supervisory. New job descriptions were developed for each level with compensation graded accordingly, and criteria for advancement were developed.

After working with pharmacy leaders and human resources to implement the technician career ladder, existing staff members were initially assigned to an appropriate level based on their competency. Professional experience were taken into consideration for initial placement up to the advanced competency level, with interviews conducted to assess placement into levels 3 and 4.

Candidates for the supervisory level also participated in a skills assessment to evaluate critical thinking and effective communication abilities. Once selected, technician supervisors completed manager training and continued to be mentored by pharmacy leaders.

Finally, advancement from level 1 to level 2 was offered during an annual performance appraisal, whereas advancement to the specialized roles only occurred in the event of a vacancy or the addition of a new role.

One year after implementation of the career ladder, this program led to standardization of technical competencies across the large, multi-site health system. The program also increased technician job satisfaction, promoted more teamwork, encouraged technician professional development, and provided clear leadership pathways. Based on these findings, the researchers said the program has been a valuable tool, especially amid the current gap in the pharmacy technician workforce. By providing more training and innovative technician positions, the career ladder can improve the appeal of these roles to qualified job candidates and improve retention of current employees.


(Management Case Study) Climbing to Success: Implementation of a Pharmacy Technician Career Ladder in a Health System. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2021 Midyear Clinical Meeting. Accessed December 7, 2021.

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