Kandy Dunnigan, AAS, CPhT-Adv, a drug diversion analyst at Novant Health, discusses her role in the pharmacy.
In an interview with Pharmacy Times, Kandy Dunnigan, AAS, CPhT-Adv, a drug diversion analyst at Novant Health, discusses her role in the pharmacy.
Q: Can you start by explaining your position and role in the pharmacy?
Kandice Dunnigan: My current job title is drug diversion analyst, and I have been doing that since August of 2022. I use diversion detection software to audit, or investigate, team members systemwide, that are flagged by the software as having behaviors that are that are possible diversion. We're kind of an unbiased view or have an unbiased look at things. It's not just doing my job to catch diversion. It's kind of also a lot of times I'm finding things that will show that they're not diverting.
I work with the local pharmacy leaders and their diversion teams when it comes to them presenting the cases and coming up with decisions on how to take it further, if they want to take further action. On top of that, the program was new. when I was new. I've helped build the program, build the template, how we communicate with the pharmacy leaders and the local teams, and then I also run a pharmacy technician work group. Then I meet with pharmacy technicians from each location once a month to discuss anything that they have to talk about as far as diversion or things that they're seeing, because they're kind of like the boots on the floor. Once you're out of the pharmacy, they'll know a lot more than I will as far as like processes and how we can improve in the actual pharmacy to help prevent version.
Q: What kind of qualifications and trainings were involved for your role?
Kandice Dunnigan: The actual qualifications for this role was, I believe, you had to have an associate degree and the PTCB controlled-substance certification, but I actually have the controlled substance regulatory validation and medication history. I have my advanced pharmacy technician certification, and I have my associate degree. I'm working on my bachelor's now and I have over 10 years of experience in pharmacy and 20 years’ experience in health care.
Q: Why are alternative and specialty career paths for pharmacy technicians important for them and pharmacists?
Kandice Dunnigan: I think it's important for the technicians because in my time in pharmacy, there's always been a high technician turnover, and techs don't tend to stay. If technicians are there, they're there while they're working on a degree in a different field. I think that having a career ladder for pharmacy technicians adds value to what they're doing every day. It gives them something to work towards; it gives them incentive to stay in the position.
Then as far as pharmacists, having these positions for technicians kind of frees up time for them to do what they went to school for and the things that are important to them. There's a lot of times I've seen pharmacists do tasks that technicians can do. I think it's just letting each group of people do what they're specialized at, but for the most part, it's just for like technicians to have a reason to stay in something to work towards and to feel valued.
Q: How has the changing landscape of pharmacy impacted the various roles of pharmacy technicians?
Kandice Dunnigan: I think like the old school idea of what like a pharmacy technician was would be basically somebody that puts pills in a bottle, like counts pills and puts them in a bottle. I think that with the advances in technology, automation, consumer demand and then just the overall increase in the expectations of a pharmacy technician. It has kind of made the pharmacy technicians like the nurses of pharmacy.
There's all different kinds of nurse verdicts: the nurse, or RN nurse, or they work in a doctor's office, and I think it's the same kind of now with pharmacy technicians where you have your retail pharmacy technicians, but then you also have pharmacy technicians and procurement or IV compounding, patient medication therapy, automation, insurance verification, technicians supervisors, diversion, medication safety so I think there's a lot more avenues that define like what a pharmacy technicians is. It's not just someone that fills prescriptions anymore.
Q: What advice would you offer to pharmacy technicians who want to look into alternative career paths?
Kandice Dunnigan: My advice would be to advocate for your career, so advocate to be valued in what you're doing, and for opportunities to advance. There's a lot of times I think either pharmacy technicians are doing extra, but there's no real title for what they're doing, or just advocating for them to open those positions. I think never turned down an opportunity to learn something new or take part in a changing process. Sometimes when there is a process change, instead of focusing on why that process won't work, maybe give your ideas on how it could be better. That doesn't mean they're always going to take your ideas, but just being vocal and putting your ideas out there so that if they do change a process, and then it works really well, they'll remember that the pharmacy technician is the one that actually put that information out there had that idea.
I think, lastly, would be don't be afraid to speak up. I think there's a lot of times, technicians might have a better understanding of the process because they're the ones that are working with the automation or in the IV room, or they could see where there is a potential problem, so not to be afraid to speak up if you think that there's a process change or how something can be improved.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Kandice Dunnigan: I've always been very vocal in my time in pharmacy about career pharmacy technicians. I think just from watching pharmacy technicians leave the field, and not necessarily because they don't like it, just because there's nowhere for them to go to make enough money to live on for it to be a career for their lifetime. Even initially with me when I was going back from my bachelor's degree, I was going to go back for human resources, which was a totally different field, but there was nowhere else for me to go like I had done all pharmacy: I conquered IV compounding procurement, like I've worked at all the avenues. So, so seeing the shift and these positions open is really exciting. I definitely think there's still some work that needs to be done in defining these roles and compensation and all of that, but I do think that it's definitely a change and a move in the right direction as for pharmacy technicians.