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To bolster pharmacy workforce and  well-being, groups agree on strategies for technician roles
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To bolster pharmacy workforce and well-being, groups agree on strategies for technician roles

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Photo of two female pharmacy technicians smiling at the camera.

Loren Bonner

Beyond just naming the issues, APhA and other organizations recognize that change needs to happen in the pharmacy workplace. Workplace conditions continue to be the primary reason cited for prolonged stress and burnout submitted to the Pharmacy Workplace and Well-being Reporting (PWWR) portal, a confidential and anonymous way pharmacy personnel can report positive and negative experiences in pharmacy practice.

In collaboration with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and ASHP, APhA released a report called “Implementing Solutions Summit: Building a Sustainable, Healthy, Pharmacy Workforce and Workplace,” which came out of a summit held in June 2023 with a variety of pharmacy professionals gathered together to identify solutions to address workplace conditions. Across the board, there was strong support to expand the role of pharmacy technicians.

“Participants supported establishing uniform educational and practice standards for pharmacy technicians, with the idea that assigning more complex duties to pharmacy technicians would make them feel more highly valued and, at the same time, free pharmacists to utilize the full extent of their training and provide better service to patients,” the report stated.

Specifically, participants recommended establishing a new higher professional level for technicians and developing a corresponding academic curriculum for advanced-level pharmacy technicians. In some chain community pharmacy settings, technicians serve as pharmacy operations managers. Advanced-level technicians manage the supply chain or work in informatics in certain health systems.

William Schimmel, executive director and CEO of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), sees both short-term and long-term solutions for the role of pharmacy technicians.

“When talking about pharmacist well-being, I would reframe that to be technician and pharmacist well-being,” said Schimmel. “The best teams are going to feed off of each other.”

In the long term, he believes techs should do more. But right now, they have to be trusted within the regulatory framework of what they are allowed to do in their respective state.

He said employers can do a lot in the short term.

“I’d tell employers hold onto the techs you have—invest in them, provide good benefits, education, training, recognition, and a defined career path—which is best of all,” said Schimmel.

According to PTCB’s 2022 national pharmacy technician workforce survey, most technicians viewed their job as a career. Responses may be biased, however, as the majority of respondents were certified technicians, according to Schimmel. However, that potential bias is more evidence to encourage or require technicians to be certified. It’s more likely to set them on a career path.

He noted that most techs have a fragmented career path, whereas pharmacists enter pharmacy school and take the NAPLEX. “Pharmacists have a pipeline,” said Schimmel.

A longer-term goal for PTCB is to have a more defined career path for techs and to get the word out that being a pharmacy technician is a great job, said Schimmel.

Contributors to the “Implementing Solutions Summit” report noted that schools and colleges of pharmacy could provide curricula for pharmacy technicians, such as by offering an associate degree program in pharmacy education.

Many participants advocated for boards of pharmacy to assess, increase, or eliminate pharmacy technician ratios to allow for adequate and redundant staffing levels if staff members are out sick or on break. To provide a basis for continuity, participants called for universal minimum practice standards for pharmacy technicians in every state.

Discussions and solutions in the report focused on five workplace themes: practice advancement, mental health, workforce, regulations and requirements, and technology and workflow efficiencies.

“We cannot delay in enacting these solutions,” said Michael D. Hogue, PharmD, FAPhA, FNAP, FFIP, executive vice president and CEO of APhA. “It is imperative that we continue to prioritize the well-being of our pharmacy personnel now to usher in positive changes that not only elevate their workplace experiences but also reinvigorates the profession.”

The full report can be accessed at  ■

APhA, NASPA release latest well-being survey findings

According to the most recent Pharmacy Workplace and Well-being Reporting (PWWR) portal findings, based on 85 submitted reports from April to June 2023, harassment from patients or caregivers and the lack of open staff–supervisor communication channels are real and continue to be reported this cycle, APhA noted.

“Reports of threats and abuse by patients, harassment by colleagues or other health care providers, and feelings of hopelessness permeate the submissions,” said Brigid Groves, PharmD, APhA vice president of pharmacy practice. “Individual reporters cite going beyond the typical above-and-beyond in community-based settings to assure that their patients’ needs are met, yet are not receiving the recognition they deserve for the time and effort invested.”

APhA said that from this latest report, there are two primary learnings: First, training is needed to enhance pharmacy staff’s knowledge on how to de-escalate or “walk away” from abusive or aggressive patient situations. The second is the importance of nonpharmacy management training on supporting pharmacy staff when faced with harassment from patients or caregivers.

Groves said negative submissions continue to be submitted in greater numbers than positive examples.

Some positive experiences reported for this most recent cycle ranged from working with a patient to help him understand how to use a new medical device to navigating medication payment coverage when moving from a jail to a rehabilitation facility. Those who submitted positive experiences indicated that those experiences would have a long-term effect on their well-being.  ■

Kroger wants pharmacists to revisit their passion of serving patients

Kroger’s Project Passion is a new opportunity for Kroger pharmacists to step outside of their normal routine and be reminded of the reasons they serve patients.

The 12-week program, open to all Kroger pharmacists, is focused on well-being, recognition, connection, development, communication, and better ways of working as teams.

“At a time when the world was coming out of the pandemic, experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’ and increased burnout in the health care industry, the Kroger Health team looked at how to better care for our workforce and specifically our pharmacists,” said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health. “We wanted to reignite the passion that motivates our teams to live out the Oath of a Pharmacist and provide the best patient care every day.”

“Project Passion essentially provides our pharmacists with a leadership foundation and professional development for them to provide the best patient care, lead high-performing teams, and foster a culture that embodies Kroger Health’s mission and vision,” she said.  ■



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