In Defense of Paying Techs What They're Worth
Providing better pay for pharmacy techs would help attract and retain better workers, reducing the chance of a serious prescription error.
I understand that in a for-profit health care system, it comes down to the nickels and dimes of the operation. This is true in all of the chain community pharmacies, so there is no need to single anybody out. However, the one area to which I have never seen enough money allocated is the salaries of high-volume community pharmacy technicians.
I cannot comprehend why this is a minimum wage job with infrequent, small-step raises, and why someone can go to the fast food joint across the street and make $2.00 more per hour. To me, a good tech is worth at least $11.00 per hour, and, if I were in charge, I would gladly pay it. It would help attract and retain far more qualified employees. Don't get me wrong—I have a dynamite staff—but only one person back there is getting paid what they are worth.
I realize that pharmacists suck up a lot of salary. Say a chain pharmacy has 4000 stores with 2 pharmacists per store each making $100,000 per year. That is $800 million per year that the chain is paying in pharmacist salaries alone.
So where can the chains find the money to increase tech pay? How about diverting the necessary funds from executive bonuses and some of the companies’ more frivolous pursuits? Higher pay for techs might even pay for itself in terms of improved performance. The better the salary, the higher the quality of the staff. The higher the quality of the staff, the lower the chance of a grievous prescription error. No grievous prescription errors means no lawsuit payouts. Wouldn't a few more bucks per hour be worth it to reduce the cost of expensive lawsuits?
Honestly, I have to say that I have gotten great work out of quite a few starting salary technicians. They have been fast, accurate, computer-savvy, and really good at customer service. They have also been temporary, because they were always looking for a better paying job and eventually they would find one. I have lost techs that made me consider wearing black for a year to mourn their loss. Finding the right person for the job at the going rate of pay is no easy task. Even in this dreadful economy, many people would rather not work at all than work really hard for minimum wage.
Two weeks’ notice is never enough time to replace a departing staff member. I have heard of pharmacists forced to work on their own for hours at a time on 300-script days. Throw in some flu shots during those solo stretches and it’s enough to make a person take up smoking. The fact that a company would put a pharmacist in this sort of position is simply appalling. A one-man (or woman) show at that pace is an accident waiting to happen.
The bottom line is this: For as long as I have been doing this job, chain pharmacy techs have not been paid what they are worth. Better wages would ensure higher-quality employees and a better chance of retaining those employees for the long run, which would help provide a better quality of care. Our patients deserve no less. Peace.
Jay Sochoka, RPh, BSPharm, CIP, is a fan of awesome techs. He is blessed to have a team full of them.