Technicians Play Key Roles in Health Systems
Seventeen percent work in hospital settings, including compounding, inpatient, medication reconciliation, and outpatient areas.
With Pharmacy Technician Day on October 18, 2022, it is the perfect time to look back on when the first technician was acknowledged in history, and interestingly, when we do, the name of mystery writer Agatha Christie appears.
We have come a very long way from Christie’s time as a technician during World War I, when she acquired her knowledge while serving in hospital dispensaries.1,2 Now the role has expanded into many realms of pharmacy. Today, technicians are working in settings that range from government to retail and that continue to expand.
Just like Christie once did, 17% of technicians work in hospital settings.3 Their roles include outpatient and inpatient, medication reconciliation, preparation of nonsterile and sterile compounding, and supervising. In a hospital setting, having the skills to compound can be a wonderful opportunity to expand into other areas of pharmacy, such as neonatal intensive care units, supporting newborn babies, or preparing intravenous (IV) compounds for patients with cancer in oncology. Other possibilities include:
- infusion settings
- emergency departments (EDs) as medication history technicians or medication reconciliation technicians
The role of the medication history technician is to gather the patient’s medication list and input it into the chart, so that the attending physician is aware of current medications. It also ensures no new treatments are added that could cause drug-drug interactions. For patients with stroke arriving at the ED, the role of the medication history technician is crucial. They verify if patients take blood thinners, so that these do not interact with parts of the treatment that may include doses of heparin. These steps not only provide valuable information to physicians, but also help save lives.
In addition to working in hospital settings, technicians can serve as pharmacy patient advocates or liaisons in clinical settings. Some specialty areas they can provide support to include cancer, liver disease, rheumatology, and transplant centers.
The advocate’s role varies, depending on which department or disease state they support. Advocates specialize in submitting prior authorizations on behalf of providers to obtain approval from insurance companies for medications that are required for the patient’s diagnosis or treatment. They also provide financial assistance support by researching available co-pay cards, free drugs, foundations, and grants for patients who cannot afford the cost of their prescription drugs. This role is an integral part of a patient’s ongoing treatment as prescription costs continue to rise, which is a financial burden on most families and can lead to an inability to proceed with care. Technicians can lift these financial burdens and allow patients to focus solely on their health and recovery.
I have had the opportunity and pleasure of knowing and working with Will Goode, CPhT, at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center at North Colorado Medical Center. He started his journey in 1987 as a technician for the Navy. Goode was stationed at Naval Health Clinic Corpus Christi, where he was a petty officer in charge of inpatient pharmacy making IVs. While serving our country and patients, he was asked to be on the Texas State Board of Pharmacy to help develop programs for technician certification. In 1992, Goode started working as a technician for Lutheran Health Network Home Health, preparing antibiotics, pain medications, and total parenteral nutrition for patients receiving home care. Eventually Banner Health bought Lutheran Health, and he continued his journey preparing IVs for the inpatient pharmacy. In 2002, Goode was presented with an opportunity to help open Banner Family Pharmacy in Windsor, Colorado. He remained there for 2 years providing support for outpatient services. In 2004, Goode was approached with another terrific opportunity: to assist Banner Health North Colorado Medical Center with a pharmacy assistance program to provide technicians with the knowledge to identify high-risk patients who repeatedly returned to the ED, by giving them financial assistance and other resources to obtain medications. This program also became part of the medication reconciliation program that offered technicians the opportunity to work in the ED obtaining medication lists from patients, so that this information could be added to the medical chart for providers to ensure proper treatment during inpatient care. In 2010, Goode became a technician supervisor for the inpatient pharmacy with 18 direct reports, while still running both programs for Banner North Colorado.
In 2015, he was offered a pharmacy patient advocate role, which allowed Goode to ensure that patients had the resources to obtain cancer treatments and did not have to worry about financial burdens that accompanied their diagnoses but focus instead on their recovery and well-being.
In this role “each challenge is new and unique, and I really like that,” he said. Goode puts his patients, staff, and team first. He has developed many professional relationships because of his technician journey. When asked, Goode said that if there was one piece of advice he would give to new technicians, it is “never be afraid to try something new.”
There are so many opportunities for technicians, and they have the chance to make a difference. I am so inspired by the many contributions I have seen technicians make throughout my time in the profession over the past 18 years. I am excited for what the future continues to hold for this wonderful role and how we can make technicians' perspectives become an integral part of the pharmacy profession. I am honored to be able to help highlight the tremendous work that technicians do every day.
About The Author
Jenny Peña, CPhT, is the associate director of oral oncology pharmacy patient advocacy at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
1. Doan M. The history of Pharmacy Technician Day. National Pharmacy Technician Association. September 29, 2021. Accessed September 13, 2022. https://www.pharmacytechnician.org/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=29090
2. Thorpe V. How Agatha Christie’s wartime nursing role gave her a lifelong taste for poison. Guardian. October 21, 2018. Accessed September 13, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/ uk-news/2018/oct/21/wartime-nursing-gave-agatha-christie-taste-for-poison
3. Occupational outlook handbook: pharmacy technicians. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Updated September 8, 2022. Accessed September 13, 2022. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/health-care/pharmacy-technicians.htm