Three Perspectives on Pharmacy Technician Retirement

Pharmacy TimesNovember 2023
Volume 89
Issue 11

Technicians can stay involved in the profession and connected with others after retirement

Although they live miles apart, these 3 longtime pharmacy technicians have many things in common in their post-retirement lives. For one, all 3 met at the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians (AAPT) annual convention.

Female pharmacist working in chemist shop or pharmacy- Image credit: Atstock Productions |

Image credit: Atstock Productions |

Fred Shackelford, CPhT, who resides in California, is 1 of 3 pharmacy technicians who founded AAPT in 1979. Lorna Griffin, CPhT, lives in Arkansas and discovered the Association of Pharmacy Technicians, as AAPT was known in 1985, at the annual convention in Dallas, Texas. Finally, Shirley Jacobs, CPhT, resides in North Carolina and started her pharmacy technician career in 1987. She discovered AAPT in 1998.


My friends below cover well the importance of belonging to an association or other group of technicians for support, networking, leadership training, learning new information, and helping others. In addition to these benefits, AAPT is my main choice for membership and fun.

I started working as a pharmacy technician in 1975 and I worked at the same hospital for 45 years. I had some great managers, really enjoyed most of my fellow coworkers, and definitely liked the many duties and roles I had for those many years. I also had great support from the people in the associations I joined, and particularly AAPT.

Leading up to retirement, I wanted to be more involved in my church, have more fun with family and friends, relax and read more, and stay involved in AAPT. So far, I have been able to do that. I help more at church, I hike with family and friends, and we have gone on several road trips to see national parks and family and friends. I am also on the AAPT Advisory Board and help with several activities. One of my bosses talked me into doing some per diem work from home, and I even learned a new sport,pickleball—easy to learn and easy to play.

My advice to fellow technicians as you prepare to retire is to get and stay involved in a pharmacy organization, do all those things you did not get a chance to do when working so hard, and learn something new. All this will help you enjoy that well-deserved retirement. See you on the pickleball court!


In the 1980s, a person wanting to work in a Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital as a pharmacy technician had to pass the US Civil Service test to get an interview. The test did not have a single question about medications or any work you might be doing in a pharmacy—strange but true.

My career as a technician began in 1982 at the Little Rock, Arkansas, VA hospital. I had very little knowledge about medications or the work that was required, and I was given a small formulary book to carry and work from. At that time, we were not called pharmacy technicians; we were called supportive personnel or pharmacy assistants.

AAPT has been instrumental in most of my journey as a pharmacy technician. I joined AAPT in 1986 and am still a member. Although I retired in July 2011, I still volunteer on the AAPT Advisory Board. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) was also instrumental, bringing certification for the pharmacy technician profession.

Many opportunities from the aforementioned groups have great importance in my work life, my personal life, and into retirement. Over the years, I have made numerous lifetime friends, had many opportunities to travel and speak to other technicians about AAPT, and had opportunities derived from that networking.

There are opportunities out there for you when you retire. For example, I was asked if I would work or volunteer as a pharmacy technician in our local Christian clinic, which offers free medical and dental care for those who cannot afford it. There are also rewarding opportunities to volunteer with AAPT and other pharmacy organizations.


I became a pharmacy technician in 1987, before the hospital where I worked was computerized. All profiles and cart fills were handwritten. Unit dosing involved typing out 25 labels on a typewriter. As I sit here 2 months into retirement, I think about just how much the profession has changed.

I am grateful for PTCB, which allowed me to push myself, study on my own, and get my certification. When I began, there were no pharmacy technician programs available at any nearby schools. It was all on-the-job learning. I studied for 8 months before driving 2 hours to take the 200-question, handwritten PTCB exam. There was no increase in pay, no advancement, but it gave me a real sense of pride to have accomplished it. Although I am retired now, I am maintaining my certification. I worked too hard to let it lapse.

I am also grateful for AAPT, which I joined around 1998. The organization has been an advocate for the profession, allowing me to meet so many others in the field, gather knowledge, and maintain pride in what I do. Each time I returned home after our annual convention, I was filled with pride for my profession and gratitude for all the resources out there for me to be a good technician. I still belong today and I volunteer on the Advisory Board.

Today’s technicians—whether in retail, hospital, research, compounding, or other areas—are well trained, knowledgeable, informed, and invaluable members of today’s pharmacy teams.

I had planned on retiring 4 years ago, but Hurricane Florence changed that. We lost our home, belongings, and car, and I decided to work longer in order to rebuild my life. We became very frugal, learning we didn’t need to replace everything we had lost, and we decided to live on our combined Social Security checks and try to put my hospital earnings into savings. This would let us build our nest egg. There were times when we weren’t able to save 100%, but we did what we could.

I worked hard at getting to where I am today, retired but grateful for all the profession gave me. With all the available ways to advance a career, I see this profession only moving forward. It has been an honor to belong to this profession for 36 years. I only have pride and best wishes for it going forward.

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