Creating A Career Ladder for Pharmacy Technicians


Developing more advanced roles for pharmacy technician can reduce turnover in roles.

At the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2022 Midyear Meeting and Exhibition, Tom Greenlee, PharmD, Retail Pharmacy Manager at the University of Missouri Health Care, joined Drug Topics® to share how creating a career ladder for pharmacy technicians can improve outcomes and reduce employee turnover.

Drug Topics®: Can you share a real-world example of a successful pharmacy technician career ladder that you’ve seen implemented?

Tom Greenlee, PharmD: Sure. In 2015, MU Health Care created a technician job code called the patient medication liaison. That was an advanced pharmacy technician role, which practiced outside the 4 walls of a pharmacy. We have those advanced technicians doing a variety of different tasks, such as clinic pre-authorizations, retail pharmacy medication adherence, specialty pharmacy medication adherence.

To illustrate the success of the implementation of that program, from August 2021 to August 2022, we only saw a 4% turnover in that job code versus the 40% that we're seeing in our entry-level pharmacy technician position, so a 10-fold decrease in turnover. With that came some unintended consequences, right and now we've incentivized a lot of our best and brightest technicians to leave dispensing roles to take on some of these advanced positions.

So, in 2021, we decided to try to address that by creating a third level of dispensing pharmacy technician so there's a pathway within our own organization now that those technicians who still are interested in dispensing pharmacy roles have an opportunity to achieve those same advanced technician pay scales.

Drug Topics®: What’s your biggest tip for pharmacists looking to create and implement a pharmacy technician career ladder?

Greenlee: Be opportunistic, that's probably the easiest way to build out your technician career ladder. Where can you find opportunities? Where do those opportunities exist? I think if you're going to be more intentional about it, you can look at informal roles within your department. What are those duties that you're asking pharmacy technicians to perform on a daily basis that are maybe unique from the basic dispensing operations? Can any of those potential roles be formalized? Also, think about where your department growth areas are. Where are you planning on future advancement? Where do you plan on a future investment in resources? Is there an opportunity to include your pharmacy technicians in that?

Evidence of the importance of being opportunistic in 2017, we had 7 technician job descriptions in 2017 and by 2022, that it [had] increased to 17. We saw it jump from 7 to 17 in only 5 years, and it wasn't through any sort of major push to do this. It was just finding those opportunities within our health system. There were health system gaps that we could fill with advanced pharmacy technicians and the [patient pedical liasion]. For example, what I shared with you before about those medication liaisons, doing pre-authorizations for clinics, that's a great example of our ability to expand that team, just by being opportunistic.

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