How Pharmacists Can Make the Most of Their Technician's Skills

November 6, 2020
Fred Gebhart

Drug Topics Journal, Drug Topics November 2020, Volume 165, Issue 11

Pharmacists can support technicians through training, incentives, and motivation.

Good technicians can be the backbone of pharmacy operations. They answer the phone, ring up sales, input scripts, refill dispensing machines, and shepherd claims through adjudication, which allows pharmacists to focus on their job.

“Our analogy is the primary care provider,” explained Tripp Logan, PharmD, second-generation owner of L&S Pharmacy in Charleston, Missouri, and 2 other stores.

“The physician doesn’t do intake or billing or all of those other essential, nonclinical tasks. We try to replicate that in pharmacy to free up our pharmacists to do what they are really good at, clinical work, and let our techs do the work they’re really good at, which is just about everything else that keeps the store running smoothly and our patients coming back.”

So how can pharmacists best use their technicians? By helping their techs work at the top of their own jobs with plenty of training, incentives, and motivation.

“I came here from a chain store, and this approach is 100% different,” said community pharmacy resident Heather Jarvis, PharmD, MBA, who works at L&S. “So many of the things I was used to doing at the chain store the techs handle as a matter of course. I had no idea technicians could give me so much more clinical time.”

That’s no surprise for Jody McConkey, MPA/HCM, CPhT, pharmacy standards and process controls senior manager for Banner Health in Phoenix, Arizona. For too many technicians, especially in retail, pharmacy is a job, not a career.

Pharmacy technicians, like other employees, try to meet expectations. Setting low expectations, with minimal support and no career path, is a prescription for low performance.

“Providing standardized training and the opportunity for professional growth not only engages technicians, it helps them grow and develop and support the pharmacist more effectively,” said McConkey, who is the head of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Certification Council.“Developing your techs, helping them develop themselves, can add real value to the pharmacist, make the pharmacist’s job easier, and improve patient care.”

Logan adopted that kind of support-the-technician approach several years ago. He dropped his company’s annual cost of living raise to instead focus on incentive raises based on pro- fessional education and credentials.

“If you want to become a certified pharmacy tech, we’ll cover the cost of the training and then give you a raise,” he said.“Every opportunity for training and credentialing comes with an incentive raise. Our techs can choose the courses they want, based on their own interests as well as our strategic goals for the pharmacy practice. Looking at our techs as part of the team has been very beneficial.”

Turning techs into team members gives what William Schimmel, executive director and CEO of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, calls a triple win.

“The pharmacist or the employer wins because they have strong performers. Individual technicians win by being rewarded for advancing through their careers. And most importantly, patients win by getting better care, which means better outcomes. The possibilities to support technicians and get more from technicians are endless as pharmacy evolves and technicians evolve with it,” Schimmel said.

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