Keeping a finger on the technician community's pulse is imperative to support pharmacies' needs.
Pharmacies face serious challenges from drug shortages, staffing obstacles, and thinning margins.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these issues, and with the end of the official public health emergency phase in sight, the necessary support pharmacies rely on may wane. At the front lines of the patient-facing health care system, the pharmacy technician workforce has a unique perspective that is imperative to understand to provide these essential workers with better support and tools to help pharmacies deliver effective and safe patient care.
Results of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board’s (PTCB) 2022 Workforce Survey showed that, of the those who have left the industry, more than 25% would have continued working as technicians if not for COVID-19 pandemic stressors.1
The pharmacy workforce has been significantly affected by shortages brought on by the pandemic. Several of the largest national drugstore brands have responded to these staffing shortages by increasing pay, offering sign-on bonuses, and reducing pharmacy hours.2 More pharmacy education programs are available than ever nationwide. Member and trade associations and other advocacy groups have been ringing alarm bells and offering tools that capture data on workforce challenges. The PTCB thinks it is essential to keep our finger on the technician community’s pulse to best support pharmacy needs. The 2022 Workforce Survey data give us a snapshot of where technicians are and how the pharmacy community can continue to nurture the development of this dedicated group of professionals.
Let’s face it: We are burned out by talking about burnout. Pharmacy staff members need support. Absent a breakthrough in payment reform, pharmacies should invest in the technicians they have. The 2022 Workforce Survey data showed that technicians felt the effects of the pandemic, with 83% of respondents saying they had taken on more work since it began.
As technicians’ responsibilities and roles expand, it is critical to reinvest in them. An investment in technicians is an investment in the future of pharmacy. Just over 56% of technicians view their jobs as long-term careers. Technicians have become invaluable partners for pharmacists and as their responsibilities grow, it is crucial to meet the need for accessible training and credentialing. Technicians are critical to pharmacy operations and safety, and effective pharmacist-technician relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. As technicians support pharmacists, it is imperative to reciprocate that support. Nearly 44% of respondents to the PTCB Workforce Survey said a lack of career ladder/opportunities to advance was a significant reason technicians left the profession, and some employers are listening to that concern. PTCB data show that employers are offering to pay for educational expenses and formal technician training, and certification/recertification or registration for technicians. By ensuring a clear path for advancement and growth, employers and pharmacists can recognize and support technicians who have invested in pharmacy as a career.
Dynamic challenges require dynamic solutions. The pharmacy operations model is ready for significant change. One possibility is the burgeoning opportunity for technicians to lead nonclinical aspects of the dispensing process. Empowering appropriately trained and credentialed technicians to engage in product verification is a way to ease stress by freeing time for pharmacists. Depending on state regulations, pharmacy workflows must capitalize on opportunities to improve adaptability and efficiency as technological tools advance.
The PTCB is constantly looking ahead for ways to support pharmacy operations and technicians through innovative credential offerings that allow technicians to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. New responsibilities for technicians require advanced certifications, such as the PTCB Assessment-Based Technician Product Verification (TPV) certificate program, which offers an opportunity for technicians to demonstrate and be recognized for checking automated systems or other technicians for accuracy in dispensing medications, managing administrative tasks and other detail-oriented work, and their competency in completing final verification duties.3 The TPV certification can help technicians validate and leverage their expertise as they take on expanded roles.
There is a gap between the contraints the industry is under and what pharmacists want. As the profession works to close that gap and chart a path forward to make pharmacy efficient and a great career choice, considering the needs of technicians is critical. The future of pharmacy depends on the workers who make it all possible.
1. PTCB releases 2022 Pharmacy Technician Workforce Survey results. Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. News release. August 18, 2022. Accessed February 28, 2023. https://www.ptcb.org/news/ptcb-releases-2022-pharmacy-technician-workforce-survey-results
2. Antrim A. Walmart, CVS announce changes to pharmacy hours due to staffing struggles. Pharmacy Times. January 30, 2023. Accessed February 28, 2023. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/walmart-cvs-announce-changes-to-pharmacy-hours-due-to-staffing-struggles
3. Technician Product Verification Certificate. Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. Accessed February 28, 2023. https://www.ptcb.org/credentials/technician-product-verification-certificate
About the Author
William Schimmel is CEO and executive director of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board in Washington, DC.