It's time to standardize tech training

May 7, 2007

A 20/20 episode provokes strong pharmacy reactions, including the call for technician training programs to meet rigorous standards.

The requirement of standardized education and training remains the most controversial but is considered by many, including NPTA, the most critical component of the previously mentioned regulations. The debate over mandatory education is commonly related to economic, time, and subject matter concerns, particularly by the chain drugstores. ASHP's Model Curriculum for Pharmacy Technician Training program accreditation-which to date has been the only national standard on technician education-is reliable but not necessarily considered practical by many. NPTA supports ASHP's current standards but recognizes that other alternatives must be considered. The objective is to ensure that pharmacy technicians complete a standardized education and training program prior to practicing-ensuring pharmacists receive the greatest possible support in providing patient care to the public.

Everyone agrees that a single medication error is one too many, particularly when patients experience adverse conditions or harm. The reality, however, is that mistakes will be made, even by the most qualified and educated professionals. NPTA officials recognize that mandatory technician education will not eliminate all errors, but we believe that it would significantly reduce the risk.

Ultimately, when medication errors do occur, we must ask ourselves if, collectively as a profession, we have taken every possible measure to prevent them. For most states, there is an additional measure that can be taken to ensure patient safety-required standardized education and training of pharmacy technicians.

The investigative reports broadcast by ABC News were intended to create a buzz for the network. But, hopefully, they will serve as a wake-up call for the pharmacy profession. Pharmacy techs are a critical part of the pharmacy team and for them to be efficient and effective team members, standardized education is necessary.

NPTA intends to work with state pharmacy boards, employers, pharmacy associations, accrediting agencies, educators, and practitioners to further discuss the regulation of standardized pharmacy technician training. NPTA invites you to comment on this issue on-line at http://www.pharmacytechnician.org/.

THE AUTHOR is chairman and CEO of the National Pharmacy Technician Association.