Pharmacy Technician Leadership

Pharmacy Times, April 2016 Respiratory Health, Volume 82, Issue 4

Expanding pharmacy technician roles is vital to evolving the practice of pharmacy.

The Our Voice Pharmacy Technician Journaling Initiative is a study involving pharmacy technicians from all areas and pharmacy practice types. Each month, this group will journal on select topics and answer a series of questions relating to specific topics relevant to patient care, industry trends, and practice innovation. The focus of this project is to explore existing practice models with the hope of educating on new initiatives, standardizing practice, and creating a vision for future pharmacy technicians.

Our Voice will examine pertinent topics, each with different viewpoints based on geographic location, pharmacy practice location, and years of experience. There are 35 states represented in this study, and over 25% of the participants have 20-plus years of experience as a pharmacy technician. Ninety-six percent of the study participants are certified, only 2 of whom are certified by a provider other than the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. This experience, as well as a unique collaboration of state involvement, allows for an in-depth analysis and breakdown of relevant pharmacy technician issues.

The purpose of collecting practice site information is to determine the demographics of the pharmacy technicians involved in the study and to see if any newer pharmacy technician career paths have evolved. Although many study participants (70%) practice either in a hospital or retail setting, compounding pharmacies, independent pharmacies, infusion and cancer centers, long-term care, and mail order pharmacies also are represented. There are also study participants that practice in specialty pharmacies, closed door/assisted living, Native American clinics, Veterans Affairs, and physician practices. Additionally, 10% of study participants have served as an instructor or director for a pharmacy technician program, either online or in a physical location. Pharmacy informatics and medication therapy management— growing fields that increasingly utilize pharmacy technicians—are also represented.

Expanding pharmacy technician roles is vital to evolving the practice of pharmacy. Pharmacy technicians work alongside pharmacists and other health care professionals on a daily basis and are often the first to interact with patients. Therefore, leadership roles are increasing for pharmacy technicians within many pharmacy teams: 30% of Our Voice study respondents supervise other staff members and 16% manage a department. As more pharmacy technicians become managers and leaders within pharmacy practice and among their peers, this should prompt an analysis of the curriculum of pharmacy technician programs to determine if leadership courses are available for students with aspirations of such roles. Continuing education courses for pharmacy technician leaders should also be developed to maintain management and communication skills, both essential for leadership positions.

As an indication that the pharmacy technician role is increasing, 74% of study participants said their role as a technician has expanded since their career began. Some examples of increased responsibilities include more involvement in management, such as the hiring and discipline process, supervising technicians, and staff evaluator and coach.

Although the expansion of the pharmacy technician role is evident in many areas, 48% of the study participants feel they are not being fully used at an appropriate level of responsibility and 60% do not feel they have the opportunity to fill a leadership role. The main restrictions to leadership positions included education limitations (requires a higher degree), employer-related (no opportunity for advancement), and few opportunities for growth.

Whereas many institutions may be underutilizing pharmacy technicians, those that have been able to develop technicians into active members of the health care team can use this leadership role to reinforce patient engagement and satisfaction. In the retail setting, technicians can inform patients about immunization and health services the pharmacy may offer. The hospital setting allows pharmacy technicians to deliver medications to the patient’s bedside, in a “meds to beds” program, and educate patients on nonclinical information such as storage and expiration dates. Technicians may also interact with patients through the collection of medication histories, including appropriate dose, route, frequency, and duration of therapy. Additionally, technicians can review records for drug-drug interactions, drug duplications, and any allergies. This collaboration of pharmacy technicians with patients and nurses helps minimize medication errors and improve patient safety.

Pharmacy leadership involves a team approach, one in which pharmacy technicians can play a vital role. Although this role is increasing, developing a more standardized profession is crucial to the expansion of the technician profession.

Kristy Malacos, MS, CPhT, is the pharmacy administrator at Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton, Ohio, through Pharmacy Systems, Inc.