28 November 2023
The rapidly changing environment is creating new responsibilities for all staff, including technicians
A CHANGING PHARMACY ENVIRONMENT
Pharmacy technicians’ roles continue to change. Previously, technicians were engaged in basic supportive tasks to the pharmacist. Although this is still the case, technicians are contributing to patient care in a much more expansive role. In recent years, largely because of excessive workflow burdens and technological advances, technicians have increasingly taken on a more essential role within the pharmacy and its daily activities.
WORKPLACE SHORTAGES AND WORKFLOW DEMANDS
With workplace personnel shortages continuing, technicians are taking on more duties in support of patient care. Seasonal ebbs and flows in pharmacy demands can often catch pharmacies shorthanded, with not enough staff to attend to the various tasks required to maintain and run a pharmacy smoothly. With the onset of cold and influenza season, relief never seems to be in sight for pharmacists and pharmacy staff. In addition to already busy schedules, pharmacies have now been tasked with the burden of being a major source of COVID-19 vaccines. This autumn will be no different, and pharmacists will be dealing with a new vaccine and the start of insurance coverage for COVID-19 shots.
THE RECOGNIZED VALUE OF TECHNICIAN SUPPORT
Although technicians have always been a part of the pharmacy, their value is now being fully recognized in today’s stressful workplace climate. This is evident even at the state pharmacy board regulatory level. State pharmacy boards have long recognized the expanding role of technicians and have been monitoring the situation, so much so that nearly all states now require technicians to be registered, licensed, or certified in order to practice behind the counter, regardless of the pharmacy practice setting.1 These requirements reflect the need to ensure that technicians are qualified to practice in a more expansive role and that patients are receiving safe and effective prescriptions and services.
Beyond regulating technicians through registration and licensure requirements, an ever-increasing number of state pharmacy boards have recognized that these governing bodies ought to include a pharmacy technician. As with other state boards, members are typically appointed by the governor. Many public health and safety determinations are made at the state pharmacy board level, and having a pharmacy technician occupying a seat on such a board provides a new voice and point of view for pharmacy technicians. It also recognizes the important role technicians have in patient care.
EXPANDED TECHNICIAN ROLES
There are numerous areas of involvement and opportunities for technicians to provide expanded value. Such roles might include taking medication histories and gathering information, assisting with billing issues, and performing data entry tasks.
The future role of pharmacy technicians is likely to be more patient centered, technologically advanced, and collaborative. Pharmacy technicians will continue to play a crucial role in supporting pharmacists and ensuring the safe and effective use of medications in health care settings.
About the Author
Ned Milenkovich, PharmD, JD, is chair of the health care law practice at Much Shelist PC in Chicago and is the former vice chairman of the Illinois State Board of Pharmacy.
State regulations and map. Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. Updated December 31, 2022. Accessed October 24, 2023. https://www.ptcb.org/resources/state-regulations-and-mapPrint
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