Pharmacy Technicians at Independent Pharmacies Not Only Can, But Should, Elevate Their Career Path

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McKesson ideaShare 2023 recognized pharmacy technicians with a technician-focused continuing education (CE) session, roundtable, and honorary reception.

Pharmacy technicians are an integral part of the pharmacy team that can fulfill unmet needs in community pharmacy, according to an expert panel discussion at a technician-exclusive lunch and learn at McKesson ideaShare 2023.

Credit: Tyler Olson - stock.adobe.com

Credit: Tyler Olson - stock.adobe.com



“We all remember those days the key technician was sick, didn’t come in, and the world imploded,” said panelist Karen Merrill, senior director of Provider Development and Patient Safety at McKesson, during the panel discussion.

Technicians can fulfill unmet needs in community pharmacy if they learn how to perform marketing duties, expand the breadth of their accreditations, and leverage what they already do to get paid for those services, explained panelist Brittany Hoffmann-Eubanks, PharmD, MBA, senior manager of Clinical Pharmacy Oversight at Health Mart.

Yet there is a growing shortage of technicians in the independent pharmacy space, and there is no end in sight. Further, the quick turnover for technician positions can be devastating to a practice, Hoffman-Eubanks explained.

Merrill emphasized, “So don’t stick your brand new [technician] at the drive-through window!”

Additionally, Hoffman-Eubanks explained that it is important to not give new technicians the most stressful responsibilities of the position, but instead ease them into the position. Preventing burnout is one of the best tactics for retention.

And for those currently staffed, give—or even kindly force—them to take lunch breaks, go outside, and enjoy a moment to themselves, Hoffman-Eubanks urged.

Technicians should also be cross-trained to elevate and diversify their practice. “Nobody wants to be in 1 job [or] 1 position, all day long,” Merrill said. “And when you have that well-tuned machine, you can do more; you can add clinical services [or] tackle a marketing project.”

One of the best cross-trainings is also community health worker (CHW) training. Throughout ideaShare, experts promoted CHW training as a way to enable the technician to provide the best health services to their community and individuals experiencing the effects of social determinants of health (SDOH).

Technicians can also strengthen pharmacy operations by participating in a variety of McKesson-sponsored Badge programs, like Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) laboratory specialist training. Getting a CLIA waiver allows technicians to provide affordable point-of-care testing for COVID-19, vitamin D, human immunodeficiency virus, and A1c, while helping build relationships with local providers who do not have time for level 1 or 2 appointments, according to Hoffmann-Eubanks.

“The nice thing about this comprehensive program is it allows you to expand into that role,” Hoffman-Eubanks said. “Everybody always talks about all the services that [technicians] can do and how we can get paid right. This is a great opportunity for people looking for those [testing] services.”

The upcoming vaccinator coordinator training would also allow technicians to manage vaccine programs. “Immunizations help you be more competitive,’ Hoffman-Eubanks emphasized.

During the panel, both the panelists and the attendees shared ways to get creative and boost staff numbers, primarily by identifying interested students from local high schools, community colleges, and technician schools. Specifically, individuals in technician school programs may need to acquire clinical hours at a practice and have already been technician certified in school, according to a technician in the audience. Another option could also be recruiting year 1 and year 2 pharmacists in graduate school for extra help.

As a whole, independent pharmacy teams should be taking advantage of the front end of the shop—an often-overlooked area that can account for 5% of pharmacy sales—to enhance and improve business. In addition, independent pharmacies can improve improve operations with medication synchronization programs and learn how to market to their specific communities, Merrill explained.

“What can you offer that isn’t offered at Target, Walgreens, or the other guy down the street?” Merrill asked.

Marketing today is largely based around social media outreach, explained panelist Chirine Apple, a marketing director at McKesson. Technicians can take on this role to further improve the pharmacy’s identity and scope, she explained.

During the panel, Apple highlighted social media best practices for technician looking to fulfill the role:

  • Keep community up to date about testing offerings. Many patients choose to go to the pharmacy before the doctor’s office, so it’s beneficial to inform the community what conditions the pharmacy tests for and unique clinical services.
  • Boost social media posts. Community pharmacies can pay Facebook to ‘boost’ a post to expand traffic. The post will appear as though it organically entered a follower’s feeds. Apple recommends boosting 1 post per quarter and boosting the posts that have customized content (ie, posts offering point-of-care testing).
  • Personalize most posts. Apple highlights that personalized posts resonate with audiences and provide insight about why the best decision would be to go to that pharmacy.
  • Engage with patient comments on posts. This can increase patient trust, help to build a relationship with the community, and can have a halo effect in which reaching 1 person can lead to reaching their entire network of connections.
  • Customize content to reflect local interests and national celebrations. Post relevant health-related content that recognizes important dates on the social calendar, such as International Women’s Month, important figures, and listen to audiences to understand where their interests lie.

“A lot of times patients don’t understand what [the technician] knows,” Merrill said. “Advocate for yourself and your profession.”

Reference

Hoffmann-Eubanks B, Merrill K, Apple C. The Sky is the Limit when Technicians Raise up the Pharmacy Team. Presentation. McKesson ideaShare 2023. June 23, 2023. Las Vegas, Nevada.

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