Expert discusses pharmacy technician certification and career progression

Ashley Gallagher: In what ways can pharmacy technicians, and even pharmacists, defend themselves and solve persistent problems of burnout?

Bill Schimmel: I will refer to our survey. Participants reported better salaries and more opportunities for advancement, as well as increased responsibilities as the most important factors in preventing burnout. This is not a surprise as this data is consistent since before COVID. We saw a slight uptick, as you can imagine, in this survey.

They can advocate for resources and opportunities. We often said talk to your supervisor, your pharmacist, have a conversation with them, tell them tell them what you are looking for. They can sort of position themselves. They’ve had that extra time to be heard through their state pharmacy association, or sometimes their local chapters in their area.

In a number of state boards of pharmacy, I think we’ve reached 20 now, or close to 20, have a technical representative on their state board. I think it’s absolutely essential to have that voice. If a State Board of Pharmacy does not have a representative technician, it should. We are very attached to this.

So for us, PTCB has a lot of connections, we know a lot of people and we will constantly say that out loud. We use these conversations at conferences or like this to make sure technicians get a louder voice.

Ashley Gallagher: How can pharmacy technicians, pharmacists and organizations provide pharmacy technicians with the best resources to focus on patient safety?

Bill Schimmel: I think training and accreditation is a great place to start. One of the things we do sometimes is look at who the top performers are for PTCE or Advanced and Specialized Degrees. They are technicians who have gone through a solid structured program of education and training while working. It’s pretty obvious to pick up this basic knowledge while you do the job in a carefully supervised way, of course, because you’re probably new.

If you compare the data we collected in 2019 in a workforce survey to what we just published, more and more employers are now offering to pay for these education costs and training formal technician fees, and even recertification fees, or state registration and licensing fees. So it’s actually increased, which is encouraging. There is a long way to go, but it was really encouraging to see.

Then your employer and the individual pharmacists also have a role to play, of course. They can advocate for a better work environment that can manage hours and breaks, they can raise salaries, so that service technicians can stay focused on their real job, which is patient safety.

We just think we recognize the role technicians play. Every pharmacist will tell you how much easier their job is when the rest of their team is really, really strong, and there’s always a tech behind it.

Ashley Gallagher:How can employers better support pharmacy technicians who want to move up the career ladder and become certified? I know you mentioned in part offering to pay and like things like that.

Bill Schimmel: I wanted to cite some good news here, again, from the survey 59% of Pharmacy Technicians see their job as a long term career compared to only 14% of non-certified technicians. It won’t come as a surprise that I’m advocating for PTCB credentials, but I want to make sure people know there’s data behind it.

Going through the process of training and education and then graduation, technicians see themselves more as professionals and they are. You go through this process and now it’s okay, I not only have the pride and the knowledge, but I see a way forward. So I would say encourage certification, support the technician in his preparation. If they seem like they want more, encourage them to explore advanced specialty opportunities within your pharmacy or healthcare system.

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