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Pharmacy Technicians Find Rewarding Careers and Helpful Resources from ASHP

Jun 08, 2022

Ray Howard, CPhT

AS THE MANAGER OF LIAISON EXCELLENCE for Trellis Rx, Ray Howard, CPhT, plays an integral role for a company that partners with health systems to help them launch specialty pharmacies. Howard is part of the company’s implementation team, meeting with physicians and nurses at new sites to introduce the specialty pharmacy service; working with patients to provide medication education and conduct prior authorizations to get them started on medications; helping establish workflows for the pharmacy; and hiring and training for the service.

Technician roles in demand

For Howard, the work is personal. He has been taking a specialty medication for the past 13 years and remembers what it was like trying to figure out where to get it, how to afford it, and how to administer it. He enjoys helping patients through that process today, so they’re not in the same boat.

“It’s nice to be able to go into work every day and know that you’re allowing nurses and providers to do what they need to do,” said Howard. “They have better patient outcomes and are able to take care of their patients…while I take all that prior authorization and financial assistance off their plate.”

Howard and other pharmacy technicians are in high demand now, with hospitals and health systems experiencing severe shortages of these professionals. In a survey conducted by ASHP of nearly 2,000 hospital and health-system pharmacy administrators, the majority reported turnover rates of at least 21% in 2021, and nearly 1 in 10 said they had lost 41% of their technicians. A companion survey of over 5,000 pharmacy technicians found that job satisfaction was strong, with 54% citing their desire to help patients as a motivation to stay. Yet, technicians reported being often frustrated by heavy workloads, and inadequate staffing and compensation. For more information, see the Executive Summary and press release.

Growth in ASHP’s technician membership

Pharmacy technician membership in ASHP has grown by 700% since the organization launched its Pharmacy Technician Forum in April 2018. ASHP offers a number of resources for pharmacy technicians, including PharmacyTechCE (a continuing education service), a resume/CV review program, a podcast, and more. For additional information, visit ASHP’s resource page for technicians.

Technicians interviewed for this article say through dedication and taking advantage of career paths offered by pharmacy companies and health systems, pharmacy technicians can find rewarding work in a variety of leadership positions.

Howard wanted to pursue a career in health care but didn’t initially have the means. So he took a job at a Walgreens in Georgia as a cashier. Over the next 10 years, he worked diligently toward a route to leadership, doing everything he could to become a designated hitter. He moved up to a shift floor lead, assistant store manager, and store manager. Because the company required managers to be certified as pharmacy technicians, he completed that training, helping dispense medications when necessary. It got to the point he learned so much that he began teaching sterile compounding at a technical college.

Then, he began searching for a new challenge. By joining the Georgia Society of Health-System Pharmacists and ASHP, he began hearing about specialty pharmacy, which is how he found Trellis Rx.

“You have no limit,” he said of pharmacy technicians. “Whenever you hit a roadblock, you just have to think outside the box, partner with people who are passionate about the things that you’re passionate about, and find a new way forward.”

Karen LeClair, CPhT

Serving in an advanced tech role

Working as a certified pharmacy technician also has brought diverse experiences and rewards for, a purchasing buyer for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., since August 2021.

“I absolutely love it,” LeClair said of her current job. She’s involved in purchasing medications for over 200 clinics in the health system’s network, including specialty medications and flu vaccines. She has a hand in distributing COVID-19 vaccines to the sites, processing recalls, inventory management, and financial reporting, among other duties.

“It’s the culmination of all of my different experiences,” said LeClair. She started her career as a pharmacy technician at CVS Health in 1986, where she worked for 24 years. From there, she worked for another company as a pharmacy claims auditor for about six years, traveling the country auditing for pharmacy benefit managers, retail and independent pharmacies, and long-term care facilities. She worked as a sterile compounding and resource technician at Elliott Hospital in Manchester, N.H., before starting her current position.

“I’m really proud of myself for how far I’ve come to finally get this advanced role,” LeClair said.

Providing technician leadership

Kristen MacKay, CPhT, pharmacy operations supervisor for Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., also advanced her career over time. After working in a retail store, she joined Walgreens and moved up to a senior certified pharmacy technician.

Kristen MacKay, CPhT

From there, she transitioned to the hospital setting and worked for Catholic Medical Center, as well as Concord Hospital in New Hampshire. She then returned to Catholic Medical Center. When the operations supervisor position became available to technicians last fall, colleagues encouraged her to apply.

“I wanted to do a little bit more than everyday technician work, and I knew I could contribute with everything I’ve learned from [my previous positions],” MacKay said. “It’s been nice to be able to take a little bit off of management’s plate, and also be a bridge between the technicians and the pharmacists and management.”

Today, she oversees tasks such as ensuring compliance with USP 795, 797, and 800; creating competency programs for pharmacy technicians; recruiting, training, and evaluating pharmacy staff; and assisting in the development of departmental procedures, in addition to sitting on the IV room committee and other administrative boards. She has shared articles from ASHP about issues relevant to technicians with her staff.

Advice for pharmacy technicians

Howard, LeClair, and MacKay offered advice for others looking to pursue leadership careers as pharmacy technicians.

Find a company that places value in technicians and pays them for their continuing education, Howard said. For him, the PTCB certification opened many doors. “I could then work at any retailer or hospital,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the training that I got at Walgreens. I use it every day, even in my new role.”

“Be open and eager to learn all that you can, and take on new roles,” added LeClair. “Pharmacy has so many different roles you can get into.”

Said MacKay, “Apply anywhere, start wherever you can…Don’t worry about what everybody else thinks you should be doing, or if they think you should be doing something else. If you know you’re doing the best job to your ability, then you can go to sleep at night knowing that you’ve done everything in your power.”

By Karen Blum

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