Pharmacy Technician Advice: Navigating Regulations, Communication, and Professional Growth

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Guidance for pharmacy technicians as they continue to learn and start their careers.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times, Teri Miller, BPharm., R.Ph., DASPL II Candidate Assistant Clinical Professor, Creighton School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, discusses how pharmacy technician roles are impacted by regulations regarding patient interactions and licensing requirements. Miller emphasizes the importance of mutual respect, open communication, and transparency in building good working relationships between technicians, pharmacists, and interns. She gives advice on resolving conflicts professionally by staying calm and respectful, as well as giving new technicians grace as they learn their roles and responsibilities. Throughout, Miller stresses practicing empathy and compassion for patients, even when they are frustrated.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

Just to start, can you give an example of how regulations impact technicians daily tasks such as dispensing medications?

Teri Miller

Sure. So, technicians are somewhat limited in how they can interact with patients in terms of the information that they can give. When a patient walks up and wants to know, perhaps a drug interaction question, a technician needs to know what they can and can't say legally, based on their credential or their license. And so when a pharmacist is actually bearing the responsibility for what goes on and everything that said in their pharmacy, it's great rapport with one another to know what your roles and responsibilities are and what you can and can't do.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

Definitely. That's great. So, for technicians new to the state, what resources would you recommend to streamline the licensing process?

Teri Miller

The very first thing that a person would want to do if they're interested in being a technician is to look at that state's Board of Pharmacy website, or in my state, it's the Department of Health and Human Services — they share a responsibility with the Board of Pharmacy. It's important that you go there first and find out what the rules are in order to get licensed, they will direct you from there. State pharmacy associations are also very good at directing you to what you'll need to do to become licensed in that state.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

Great, thank you. Can you touch on specific communication tools that can be particularly helpful for technicians to build strong relationships with pharmacists and interns they could be working with?

Teri Miller

Key Takeaways

  1. Technicians must be aware of legal guidelines regarding their scope of practice and what information they can provide to patients.
  2. Fostering mutual respect, open communication, and transparency is important for developing strong working relationships with colleagues.
  3. New technicians should approach their roles with a willingness to learn from others through asking questions and give themselves grace during the learning process.

Well, it's funny because I wouldn't even say it's just for technicians. Because one thing I think is really important for a good work environment is to have a feeling of mutual respect for one another, no matter what your role is. Whether you're a technician, whether you're a pharmacist, or whether you're an intern. One of the very first things that I always recommend is when I walk into a pharmacy, if I don't know who I'm working with, I'm going to ask what their name is, tell them mine and find out whether they're a technician, whether they're an intern. Just deliver that element of relationship that tells them that you care about them, and you care enough to know their name while you're working with them. Plus, from a patient perspective, it does not look good when you don't know the name of the person they're talking to at the counter. So, it's important to do that. Being open to feedback is another thing that I think is very important. It sets the tone for that two-way engagements. I think transparency and being able to gradually develop that trust that you have with the people that you work with, to put the best face on patient care as well as have a good work environment.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

Definitely. I agree, it does go for much more than just the technician role. But going off of that, when disagreements could arise within colleagues, what approach can technicians use to navigate conflict resolution professionally?

Teri Miller

I think that one of the most important things is to stay calm, and to stay respectful. When there's something that's bothersome, don't wait until it gets the point of making you in a fit of rage. So, to talk to whoever your supervisor is. If that's the pharmacist in charge, then set up a time to talk to them about whatever issue or issues are going on that are concerning or upsetting. That's usually the best way to have a good outcome.That way, the job stress of being busy and for forgetting often is not going to happen because you've set aside the time and you've thought ahead to schedule a time and talk about whatever issue that is. And usually, it's well received when that happens for conflict resolution.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

I know that your session is going to cover so much valuable information. But what is an important takeaway that you would share for new technicians that are entering the field?

Teri Miller

Give yourself the grace to learn. You're not going to walk in and just know everything to do every single second. Don't be afraid to ask questions. And when you need help, make sure that you ask. One of the things that I think is very helpful when I work when we have a relatively new technician, is to make sure we've assigned a tech lead with them so that they can be near them while they're working throughout the day. They can help them when they need help because there are a lot of things to learn, and it's going to take time to learn everything. Even if you've passed all the tests, and you're credentialed and you're ready to go. It's important to have a spirit of being able to learn from another person. Whether I'm a pharmacist or a technician, I can learn something from a technician, I can learn something from an intern. When you lead out with that, the reciprocal often is the case. If everyone has that kind of spirit of, you know what I can learn things from the other people that I work with. I may not be able to do all the same things that those people can do, but I can learn from them. That's very important.

Kennedy Ferruggia, Pharmacy Times

That's great. Thank you for sharing that. That's all the questions that I have, but is there anything else you'd like to add that maybe we didn't cover that you may be discussing?

Teri Miller

Just overall, be the kind of coworker and colleague that you want others to be to you, and when you walk into work every day, you're going to enjoy what you do. Remember that patients often see you at a time of deep sadness or disappointment in their life. Don't take things personally, when a patient gets angry or is impatient. We all know that can happen in a pharmacy at times, but just communicate well and talk through what you're doing. If you need help at the counter, seek help from the pharmacist or the intern. That will help you feel good about your day and not be frustrated and feel like a punching bag at times. Just remember everybody's coming from a place that nobody else has walked and so we just need to have compassion and empathy for people when they come through our door.

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