by Robert “Jed” Swackhammer, Ohio State University
Many patients think that only pharmacists work at pharmacies. However, there is much more that goes on behind the pharmacy counter. In fact, most pharmacies include a team of trainee technicians, registered technicians, certified technicians, student pharmacists, and pharmacists. A common question is, what are the differences between technicians and why they are important? This answer is an essential reason why pharmacies can run safely, effectively and efficiently.
More Than Just a Cashier
A pharmacy’s foundation starts with the development of its technicians. To initiate the process, an individual must have, at minimum, a high school diploma or equivalent to become a technician. But we should also consider the required skills. In Florida, for example, The Rasmussen Pharmacy Technician College states that skills required of technicians and are “frequently defined as clerical, customer service, critical thinking and basic medical knowledge.”
Preceding the application process, an individual must first complete pharmacy training, and is titled as a technician in training or a trainee technician. So to be considered a registered technician, most states require trainee technicians to register with their state board of pharmacy. However, it’s always important to check your states requirements, as they may change. Lastly, to become a certified pharmacy technician, one must take and pass the national certification exam provided by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). After passing the exam, a pharmacy technician is entitled to apply to any available pharmacy technician position within the nation.
Providing Optimal Care
Knowing what it takes to become a pharmacy technician, it is also reasonable to recognize their value to the pharmacy team. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the need for pharmacy technicians will continue—specifically an increase in 12% from 2016-2026, due to the number of pharmacy schools and graduating pharmacists. As a result, it is vital that we meet this balance, so that pharmacists within pharmacies can continue to provide optimal patient care. Especially, by utilizing pharmacy technicians, as they always help to relieve pharmacists of certain tasks and responsibilities.
For this reason, it is vital that current and future pharmacists recognize the value of their pharmacy technicians. Moreover, it is important that pharmacists challenge technicians and their knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAOs) to keep them engaged and up-to-date.
For example, in 2017, the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association published a summary article of the Pharmacy Technician Stakeholder Consensus Conference. This article stated that more than “44,000 pharmacy technicians answered 1 of 2 surveys related to job analysis, which assessed how frequent specific tasks were being performed. Additionally, the PTCB stated that they will continue to analyze job analyses to help develop better pre-certification requirements and future certification programs in advanced community pharmacy and sterile compounding.”
It is vital that student pharmacists and pharmacists recognize their technicians to drive the profession forward and continue to deliver optimal patient care.
 Pharmacy Technician License Requirements by State. Pharmacy Times. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/technician-news/pharmacy-technician-license-requirements-by-state#wa. Published 2015. Accessed August 6th 2018.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Pharmacy Technicians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm. Accessed August 6th 2018.
 Zellmer W, McAllister E, Silvester J, Vlasses P. Toward uniform standards for pharmacy technicians: Summary of the 2017 Pharmacy Technician Stakeholder Consensus Conference. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. 2017;57(5):e1-e14. doi:10.1016/j.japh.2017.06.014
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