Pharmacy Technician Q&A: Nicole Bernabe, CPhT

Nicole Bernabe, CPhT, shares her experiences and thoughts on the technician's evolving role.

Although many technicians don’t enter the pharmacy field until their teenage years or early adulthood, Nicole Bernabe, CPhT, was practically born into it.

As the daughter of a pharmacist and a lead technician, Bernabe’s earliest experiences in pharmacy involved assisting at an independent pharmacy in rural Iowa. By age 15, she was already helping her parents improve their business by designing and implementing a new inventory system.

Licensed as a pharmacy technician since 1997 and certified since 2010, Bernabe has offered her skills and knowledge to independent, community, hospital, long-term care, and veterinary settings throughout her career. She currently works as a customer success specialist at TelePharm, a digital health care company that provides telepharmacy services to patients and pharmacists in Iowa.

Bernabe recently spoke with Pharmacy Times to share her experiences and thoughts on the technician’s evolving role.

Q: What drew you to your career as a pharmacy technician?

A: My father is a retired pharmacist, and my mother was his lead technician for more than 20 years. I started working for my father in a small, rural pharmacy years ago and enjoyed many of the technical aspects of processing a prescription, as well as the intricacies of medication compounding, but watching my parents nurture relationships with their patients is what really drew me into the profession.

My parents were both incredibly trusted by the community they served, and they still receive cards from patients 10 years after retirement! Seeing how much of an impact their care made on the community inspired me and still drives me as a technician today.

Q: What do you consider to be most important quality for a pharmacy technician to possess?

A: In order to deliver exceptional patient care, you must be empathetic. Clinical empathy is a crucial ingredient in health care provider-patient relationships.

As our industry transitions towards a more value-based care model, the ability to understand patient concerns and the capacity to communicate this understanding become an invaluable resource in and out of the pharmacy. Empathy encourages compliance, builds trust, and opens communication.

Q: What do you believe is the most crucial issue facing technicians today?

A: Uniformity of the pharmacy practice is an issue that is impacting the pharmacy technician role all over the industry. Technician registration, licensing, and scope of practice is different in every state, and there is no single technician organization who is a voice for the technicians.

If technicians are going to be taking on new responsibilities and expanded roles, national certification should be an industry requirement for all technicians in every state. There needs to be a higher standard of practice, as well as more challenging requirements to obtain and maintain certification. This will enhance diversity, specialization, and encourage greater overall competency within the pharmacy technician profession.

Higher expectations, higher quality of care.

Q: What are some of the unique challenges and rewards that come with working as a technician?

A: In my current position at TelePharm, we are assisting rural communities by bringing pharmacies back to their towns using an exciting new software solution. Telepharmacy is a relatively new model of pharmacy that elevates the role of the technician, and pioneering new procedures is a challenging process that requires innovation, collaboration, and patience.

We work through the night to overcome long-term challenges like lack of industry awareness around telepharmacy, in addition to practical challenges like enhancing traditional workflows through the use of new technology. This is an important responsibility, and I am proud to share it with my colleagues. These procedures will set the framework for telepharmacy regulations of the future.

As a technician, I remember the most fulfilling days were the ones when I saw that my daily actions made a difference in my patient’s lives. I know what good technicians are capable of and the impact they can have on their patient’s care. As I work to help redefine the role of the technician, I feel like I’m working on something bigger than myself.

I think what we’re doing at TelePharm is truly industry leading. Being right here at forefront of technology and health care and witnessing the positive impact on patients’ lives firsthand is the most rewarding experience.

Q: What advice would you give to fellow technicians?

A: Pharmacy is a dynamic industry with endless opportunities. It is constantly changing, so make sure you change with it.

Take advantage of every opportunity to develop your experiences. Continuing education, internships, volunteer work, employer-sponsored training, or just staying informed by subscribing to the many industry relevant publications available will provide valuable resources to help you evolve, adapt, and thrive in the technician role.

I would also recommend that my fellow technicians shouldn’t sell themselves short believing those who say you are “just a technician.” A technician is a critical member of the health care team. There are tons of opportunities for technicians to showcase what they can do.

Take risks, embrace new challenges, always keep learning, and trust in yourself, because you never know who is watching.