Although some pharmacy employees have left the profession, others have stayed but changed direction.
My tenure as a technician is close to 15 years, and this has been an exciting run for me, especially over the past 3 years. Although many individuals view this recent period as the Great Resignation, I have come to view it as the Great Pivot. During this time, although many pharmacy personnel literally walked off their jobs, others chose to walk toward a different professional experience.
A pivot provides an ability to stay involved with what you are doing but change your view and your direction.
Pivots are not necessarily about departure but may exemplify the phrase “bloom where you are planted.”
Recently, I have had conversations with my peers about the professional future for pharmacy technicians. If the pivot concept is viable, to where could they pivot?
In late 2022, I read a LinkedIn post from a fellow technician that explained how he saw a change in his profession and then made a pivot with the help of a targeted educational pursuit. Other stories have come from technicians who took their existing experience, added a level of learning, and pivoted. Many of these technicians stayed within their practice environments but were able to expand their responsibilities and roles.
Options for Expanded Roles
Collectively, our conversations showed that technicians could pursue expanded roles in 4 areas: clinical practice, pharmacy business, technician education, and pioneer path. A colleague of mine created the notion of pioneer path, which is when technicians define the roles they desire and chart their own paths to create these roles.
Regardless of the area chosen for a pivot, remember the term collaborative.
The growth area for pharmacy will be in the active partnership between medicine and pharmacy.
Technicians will not be siloed with dispensing tasks. The days of “count by 5” are long gone.
Although many pharmacy professionals left retail pharmacy, I wish they had viewed this practice through the lens of community pharmacy practice, because this realm is the most creative and progressive area for growth. Removing the blinders of a workflow regimen shows the full view for multiple technician roles in direct patient care. There are 5 important areas of professional development for technicians in this category: immunizations, medication synchronization, point-of-care testing (POCT), remote therapeutic monitoring, and telehealth/telepharmacy. Here’s a look at each area.
Technology and the information it provides are the launchpads for technicians to pivot. The pandemic showed how technology could be a partner rather than an adversary.
Technician education is also trending. Technicians who would like to be instructors can complete courses to develop their skills.
Those with an interest in entry-level education who want to share their enthusiasm and knowledge with new technicians should consider joining an advisory council with a local training program. Once they complete that program, they can join a national technician training program advisory council and a state pharmacy association, both of which have advisory councils for their education programs and often need technicians to provide input on relevant topics. Offer to be a guest presenter for a local training courses. These experiences can lead to finding candidates to fill open positions at the pharmacy.
Explore the possibility of accepting technician students for externships. Keep in mind that all national technician training programs seek externship locations for their students who are studying virtually. A training program may not be close by, but a national program may have a student who is close to the pharmacy.
Although most existing training programs focus on entry-level education, continuing education resources are developing content, accredited and nonaccredited, that prepares technicians to move into advanced roles. These education providers also have advisory councils. Those with instructional experience may identify providers who accept proposals for topics to be developed.
They can also help with distribution and provide revenue for a learning product.
The advantage of participating in these types of educational experiences is that they provide the chance to explain what you know within an instructional format. Everyone processes information in their own way, so an instructor needs to provide information in multiple ways.
Finally, there is the pioneer path. Technicians who are tired of their jobs need to put pen to paper. They should describe the job they want and list the required skill they do not have and then develop those.
Begin to network with other technicians who are doing the desired jobs.
In 2014, for instance, I set up my LinkedIn page. I saw a technician who was doing what I wanted to do, and I connected with her.
She shared her passion for what she was doing, and I was soon in the area of pharmacy practice that I desired: education. It took 7 years to fully realize what I wanted, but I was on a path that would lead to my desired goal.
She is still a guidepost for me.
I hope others see why I am excited about the future for technicians. Although I cannot participate in all the areas that I have described, I am happy to know others can.
About the Author
Christine Cline-Dahlman, BFA, CPhT-ADV, is the CEO of PharmTechForward, LLC, a technician-focused educational firm in Woodstock, Georgia.