Letters: August 2011

August 15, 2011

Readers speak out about "vocational schools" and certified techs.

Key Points

I agree 150% with what Fred Mayer has said about halting the proliferation of pharmacy schools. I have been concerned about the "business of pharmacy schools" and about having our profession downgraded to a "vocational school" level because of the lucrative financial opportunity the practice of pharmacy presents.

How can we get involved? What can we do to lobby against this? I am willing to put my blood, sweat, and tears into this. Medical schools have a governing body that regulates the number of new schools that can be created. I don't see why we don't, as well."

Do the right thing

Re: "We get by with a lotta help from our techs" [JP at Large, July 2011]: I am a pharmacy manager working for 1 of the major chains. I have 2 certified techs.

The wages for a certified tech in my state are about $13.50/hour plus benefits if you work 30 or 35 hours - 30 hours for healthcare and 35 hours for vacation benefits. One of our techs gets insurance from another source and does not need the healthcare; the other needs both. I have offered to take a decrease in my own pay to give the techs more money, but my DM says this is NOT allowed.

I try to help the techs out by giving them gift cards for the winter holidays. I also gave them a portion of my annual bonus, since it was mostly based on our full-year customer satisfaction rating of 92% positive.

I suggest that other pharmacists in similar positions try expressing their appreciation for their technicians by giving them similar "perks." I think it is the right thing to do.

Michael Saija, RPh, CIP
SHARON, MASS.

What's holding up the parade?

It has been my good fortune to be associated with many outstanding technicians in my career. Jim Plagakis is right: We certainly couldn't handle today's workload without our technicians.

I am concerned that our technicians may have missed the boat. Or is their progress toward a solid professional stature still in its infancy? I hope it is the latter. If you trace the history of pharmacy, at 1 point pharmacists were considered merely technicians. (Some would say we still are). As we progressed to a degree and then to a more advanced posture, we began to receive more professional regard and financial reward.

It's painful to see how little progress pharmacy technicians have made. I often wonder why they don't have a 4-year degree, haven't taken over the count-and-pour routine, and haven't achieved a living wage. Unfortunately, except for in the military and other government agencies, techs function mostly as insurance agents.

Certainly a competent technician with a good 4-year degree would get paid more, although less than a registered pharmacist would. Wouldn't it be in line with the ultimate goal of academia and pharmacists for techs to be more "clinical"? Chain pharmacy operations ought to love this, since they would employ fewer pharmacists who are highly paid and more technicians who are paid less. And wouldn't patients be better served by pharmacists who work with them purely on their medications and health?

What's holding up these developments? The need is there. Once again, Jim is right on.

Stan Illich, RPh, MHA
HATTIESBURG, MISS.