Transforming pharmacy technicians for the future

I support the use of pharmacy technicians in many roles inside acute care pharmacies. I believe that they are a valuable tool and, when properly utilized, pharmacy technicians can not only improve pharmacy operations and patient safety, but can also give pharmacists freedom to focus on clinical duties and patient care.

This is why I found a recent article in Pharmacy Practice News so interesting. The article describes a program at Inova Alexandria Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia where the department of pharmacy has developed a system to educate their technicians for expanded roles.

The program outlined in the article is quite extensive and involved. Why would Inova Alexandria Hospital undertake such a task? It’s simple really. As stated in the article: “The implementation of automation means expanded roles for technicians. Automation promotes safety and accuracy, and when used properly, it can save valuable time, freeing up technicians to work in other areas of patient care and enabling pharmacists to act as direct care providers. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ (ASHP) Pharmacy Practice Model Initiative cites technicians as a cornerstone of the future of pharmacy practice and recommends increased educational requirements for technicians in the future.” I couldn’t agree more.

The program consists of monthly sessions targeted at educating technicians about medications and disease states. It is designed to promote interactive discussion and teamwork, and appears to have paid off in spades for Inova. According to the article, “The benefits of the technician education forum are numerous. Technicians have become more engaged and accountable for their work and have reported an increased job satisfaction. Furthermore, teaching technicians about correct dosing and safety allows them to become a second set of eyes for pharmacists. Technicians present concerns or questions during daily activities based on topics and concepts previously presented.”

The article presents examples of how to present clinical information to technicians, and even includes a chart for tips on starting a technician education program of your own. It’s a great article and I encourage everyone involved in pharmacy to take a few minutes to read it.

The future of pharmacy remains uncertain, but it is clear that technicians are an underutilized commodity in acute care pharmacy. Expanding the role of pharmacy technicians can only improve pharmacy practice and serve as a springboard to launch pharmacist into more patient centric activities.

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