They can help individualize programs, providing motivation and support to patients.
As the medical world continues to advance, it stands to reason that the world of pharmacy will as well.
States are beginning to entrust pharmacy technicians with more responsibilities, allowing them to work at the top of their license. There are a variety of avenues allowing for this in both the community and health care settings, such as accuracy-checking technician programs, medication reconciliation, medication therapy management in the health care setting, and performing remote data entry for pharmacist verification and giving and receiving transfers verbally in the community setting. Currently trending is the development of the clinical tech role. A lot of places are still developing this position and what the day-to-day responsibilities would be, but there is agreement across the board that assisting in smoking cessation would be a valuable asset and work skill to possess.
Although pharmacist intervention would still be vital, the tech could provide motivation and act as a cheerleader by helping to implement an individualized smoking cessation plan, as well as being a shoulder to lean on or someone for the patient to vent to if the pharmacist is tied up with other clinical duties. Creating this relationship between the patient and the tech is vital. Quitting using tobacco products can be very stressful for many patients, and there are many barriers. Examples of what to include in a patient’s cessation plan range from defining some motivating factors for quitting, discussing how to eliminate preconceived obstacles, and learning how to get through each day without tobacco.
The tech’s role could also include follow-up with patients about how the cessation plan is going and making sure that any medication is taken correctly and well tolerated, all key to the treatment plan. Being there for patients who need to release frustration about how difficult this lifestyle change can be allows for honest and open communication about how the plan is going and whether the patient is following it correctly. Technicians are a great resource to have as a mediator between patient and pharmacist to keep not only communication flowing but trust levels high as well. Having a close eye and truthful conversation about medication regimens also allows adjustments to be accurately made in the best interest of the patient.
Finally, clinical techs can assist pharmacists with smoking cessation efforts by gathering the initial information needed to assess how much tobacco patients are using. Being that first point of contact to ensure that all valuable information is obtained beforehand allows more time during the follow-up meeting to work on how to achieve each patient’s goals. This is a great tool to use and combine with medication reconciliation, which is also a newer responsibility for techs in the health care setting. Gathering a complete medication history, for both prescription and OTC medications, is an important step in achieving the best care plan possible for all patients. This step also allows time to look into a patient’s home life and perhaps identify some barriers or triggers of which the patient may not be aware.
Although these suggestions for aiding in smoking cessation are small, they are stepping stones to bigger and better things that will allow techs to grow in their careers by leaps and bounds. When techs become clinically more involved and work at the top of their licenses, pharmacists can do the same thing.
Kathleen O’Dell, CPhT, is a clinical inpatient pharmacy technician, at Boise VA Medical Center in Idaho.