Pharmacists and Technicians Teaming up
Career Path : Healthcare
Healthcare is evolving in Canada to match the times, driven by changing demographics, patient need and increasing medication use. Pharmacists are the medication experts and the public’s most accessible healthcare professionals. With the aging baby boomer population and competing demands, recent legislation in most provinces has introduced a registration process to standardize and officially recognize the growing importance of the pharmacy technician role. In the past, pharmacists have been reluctant to delegate certain responsibility to technicians out of respect for public safety, due to limitations and variations in training. While it is still a transitional period, initial results of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working together have been encouraging and the real winner is the patient.
While the 31,000 licensed pharmacists in Canada account for the third largest segment of healthcare professionals, there is a continuous challenge to ensure a sufficient, appropriately skilled workforce. As pharmacists take greater responsibility for managing drug therapy in collaboration with patients and healthcare providers, they will need to spend more time on health promotion, disease prevention and chronic disease management. To successfully extend their role, a parallel advancement of reliable pharmacy technicians was identified to be necessary.
The pharmacist’s shift away from the mechanics of dispensing medications means the registered pharmacy technician is responsible for counting or preparing medications, adhering to standard practice requirements that have been lacking until recently. Pilot projects integrating the newly qualified pharmacy technicians have found pharmacists spending most of their day evaluating the therapeutic relevance of prescriptions with patients and providing pharmaceutical opinions and other medication management functions. They are able to proactively approach patients who look like they may need assistance and devote more time to providing health-related counselling, such as cholesterol monitoring, weight control and MedsChecks.
Some drug stores have adapted workflow so that the technician handles the technical portion of a given prescription and the pharmacist checks it for therapeutic accuracy at the end of the process. Instead of being occupied with data input necessities of the checkout, pharmacists may hover between the end of the counter and out in the store, providing deeper service and gaining true professional satisfaction. As the role of pharmacists evolve to connect their processes further with those of physicians and care providers who have completed nursing unit clerk courses, the added responsibility of pharmacy technicians ensures that patients are receiving optimal attention.
Pharmacies interested in integrating a registered technician into their practice should develop a workflow plan, communicate the changes with other staff members and determine what extended services will be provided to patients. An adjustment period is inevitable as pharmacists have often been accustomed to overseeing many of the technical details now delegated. Under the new standards, registered technicians must complete at least 34 weeks of pharmacy technician courses from an accredited post-secondary institution before taking structured practical training, similar to a regularly assessed internship, and finally jurisprudence and Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC) exams.
Thompson Career College, a healthcare-focused college in Kamloops, is the only pharmacy technician program in British Columbia with full Accreditation status.