A pharmacy technician is a mid-level health care provider whose professional performance is supervised by a licensed pharmacist (Myers, 2011, p. 1128; Smith et al., 2014, p. 2). Supporting and assisting pharmacists in all activities that are allowed by the state legislation, these specialists perform different pharmacy-related functions, such as the preparation of orders being prescribed and distribution of oral and parenteral medication within a healthcare setting. In medical institutions, pharmacy technicians collect data, document medication histories of patients, enter prescriptions into the pharmacy computer system, and prepare reports (Myers, 2011, p. 1132; Moini, 2014, p. 251). They participate in the acceptance of medication, keeping records, maintenance of pharmacy inventory, and provision of storage conditions of medicines and medical devices in accordance with their physicochemical properties and applicable regulations. According to Smith et al. (2014), today, job responsibilities of pharmacy technicians are expanding, involving “immunization assistance, supply chain management, informatics, transitions of care and medication therapy management services” (p.2).
The basics of pharmacy technicians’ authority and responsibility are determined with the Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy (CCP) and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) (Schlaifer & Rouse, 2010, p. 507). The state boards of pharmacy identify requirements for these professionals’ licensing and registration; their regulatory standards vary across the United States (Abood, 2011, p. 343; Myers, 2011, p. 1130; Moini, 2014, p. 236; Smith et al., 2014, p. 5). Pharmacy technicians assist “in pharmacy activities that do not require the professional judgment of a pharmacist” (Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy, 2009, p. 24; Smith et al., 2014, p. 20). In order to avoid medication errors and ensure safe medication dispensation, all activities of a pharmacy technician must be checked by a supervising pharmacist (Smith et al., 2014, p. 20). The degree of mandatory supervision also varies across the states (Abood, 2011, p. 343). For instance, medication dispensation performed by pharmacy technicians in remote areas must be video supervised by pharmacists using a telepharmacy approach (Myers, 2011, p. 1132). A pharmacy technician is responsible for duly and qualitative performance of his/her duties, efficient execution of a pharmacist’s orders and instructions, and compliance with regulatory and legal guidelines concerning his/her activities.
Irrespectively of their workplace, pharmacy technicians should perform their roles and responsibilities in conformity with the Code of Ethics adopted by the American Pharmaceutical Association (today, the American Pharmacists Association) in 1994 (American Pharmacist Association, 1994; Moini, 2014, p. 39). The Code of Ethics for these specialists is a set of ethical standards and moral principles of conduct in providing qualified, accessible, and timely pharmaceutical care. Its eight principles establish relationships between pharmaceutical professionals, patients, and health care providers, being aimed primarily at ensuring the rights, dignity, and health of an individual and society as a whole, as well as the rights and moral responsibilities of pharmacists. The primary goal of pharmacy technicians’ professional activities is to preserve human health, promoting “the good of every patient in a caring, compassionate, and confidential manner” (American Pharmacist Association, 1994). In order to maintain public health and safety, these specialists must ensure adequate quality control, storage, safety, and efficacy of drugs. Pharmaceutical professionals must respect every patient’s autonomy and dignity, showing no preference or aversion to anyone. They must provide all individuals with quality pharmaceutical care, regardless of their nationality, political and religious beliefs, property status, sex, age, or social status. Professionalism and competence in drug provision are obligatory conditions. Relationships between pharmacy technicians and other medical professionals should be built on mutual respect. While performing their activities, they should maintain the balance of societal and patients’ needs.
Requirements for pharmacy technicians’ education, training, and certification are determined by the Professional Affairs Committee (PAC) so that their knowledge, skills, proficiency, and competencies can satisfy the Joint Commissioners of Pharmacy Practice (JCPP) vision for pharmacy practice (Smith et al., 2014, p. 2). The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) has determined single national standards and specific requirements for pharmacy technicians’ levels of skills; those are assessed through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (PTCE) (Moini, 2014, p. 220). Candidates’ competences are evaluated in such domains as pharmacology, pharmacy laws and regulations, sterile and non-sterile compounding, medication safety, pharmacy inventory management, and other fields (Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, 2014). The application and exam fee comprises $129.
An individual can become a pharmacy technician through formal or informal training. Formal education and training programs are provided with vocational schools, technical schools, career and trade schools, community colleges, pharmacy retailers, universities, and other educational establishments. It is possible to acquire an education via open source courses, such as Massive Open Online Courses (Smith et al., 2014, p. 3). Training and education programs are also offered by the United States’ Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy, such as a 13-week education program launched by the Department of Defense. As a rule, these programs include initial instructions and experiential training (Myers, 2011, p. 1131). However, they must be officially approved by the state boards of pharmacy and correspond to accreditation standards established by the ASHP Commission on Credentialing (COC) (Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy, 2009, p. 24; Smith et al., 2014, p. 3). “Accredited programs must deliver at least 600 hours of didactic, laboratory, and experiential education and training” (Myers, 2011, p. 1130). Costs of pharmacy technician education programs vary depending on an institution and mode of study. For instance, online cost tuition offered by CareerStep, an online provider, amounts to approximately $2,000 while college programs range from $3,000 to $11,000. In order to obtain the PTCB Certification, a candidate must possess a high school diploma or an equivalent, comply with the PTCB Certification policies, disclose all criminal or licensure actions, and pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) (Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, 2014). The professional certification of pharmacy technicians expands the scope of CPhTs’ responsibilities; they start playing a more “important role in improving patient safety and medication-error strategies (Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy, 2009, p. 26).
Today, pharmacy technicians have become a vital part of the health care team in all clinical settings due to the expansion of their professional responsibilities. Therefore, an increase in these positions by 70,00 is predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics “between 2012 and 2022” (Smith et al., 2014, p. 2). Taking into consideration the projected growing demand for pharmacy technicians, their job opportunities can be identified as favorable. The Internet-based job search supports this prediction; the website www.careerbuilder.com offers 761 positions of pharmacy technicians in the USA. Applicants’ experience is not obligatory; even trainees can easily gain employment (CareerBuilder, 2015). Payments range from $12 to $16 per hour, depending on previous experience and requirements to a position. There are advanced job opportunities for certified pharmacy technicians who are in higher demand in comparison with novices; they are offered $16-18 per hour.
The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) is the largest organization that unites pharmaceutical professionals, scientists, and students; there are approximately 62,000 members in the APhA. Students can enroll online, by phone, or by mail; a membership fee for them comprises $45 (single year member) or $115 (dual year member) (American Pharmacist Association, 2015). By joining the American Pharmacists Association, students, as well as other members, obtain free online access to The APhA’s DrugInfoLine, The Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and The Pharmacy Today. They are also provided with a print or online version of The Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.
In order to maintain their licensure, certification, or registration and enhance their competence, pharmacy technicians should get involved in continuing education (Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy, 2009, p. 29; Smith et al., 2014, p. 5). These specialists’ knowledge and skills should correlate with health information advances and new technologies. Professionals receive the Statement of Continuing Education Credit after the completion of “a program provided by an organization accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education” (Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy, 2009, p. 31). They can gain continuing education by completing formal or self-study courses (Moini, 2014, p. 219). There are differences in the number of credits and hours of continuing education in different states. Moreover, not all states require continuing education from pharmacy technicians (Smith et al., 2014, p. 5).
Reflection/ Personal Career Plan
The profession of a pharmacy technician appears to be a steadily changing model in health care. The emergence of new requirements for competence and skills poses certain challenges. However, I believe that scrupulousness, promptness, attention to details, critical thinking, and well-developed interpersonal skills inherent to me will facilitate my transition into the profession. My self-actualization and passion for learning will contribute to the acquisition of knowledge and proficiency.
My main goal is to become a highly qualified certified pharmacy technician. In order to achieve it, it is essential to objectively evaluate my current level of required competence. The next step will be the selection of an appropriate educational establishment or education program. By reviewing employers, patients, and pharmacists’ testimonials, it will be possible to identify colleges that provide high quality education. Then, I will familiarize myself with the content of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam and develop a consistent plan of the preparation for the PTCE. Being a certified pharmacy technician, I can find an adequately paid job. A position of a licensed pharmacist is my further prospect.