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March 8, 2019

North Dakota Technician Champions National Certification

This article is part of a series featuring ASHP’s pharmacy technician members and their valuable contributions to the profession. Check out ASHP’s Pharmacy Technician Forum for more information about efforts to advance the pharmacy technician workforce, as well as ways for pharmacy technicians to become more involved in ASHP.

 

Diane Halvorson, CPh.T.

AS A YOUNG ADULT, Diane Halvorson, CPh.T., never intended to become a pharmacy technician. But now, more than 25 years later, she has a gratifying career and is an influential figure in the field. As Lead Pharmacy Technician at Vibra Hospital Pharmacy in Fargo, N.D., Halvorson is a staunch advocate for improving technician certification and education programs.

Successful Technician
Halvorson began working at a hospital pharmacy more than two decades ago. As a single mother, she needed to find a way to support her son. Halvorson was lucky enough to learn the pharmacy technician trade on the job. She didn’t have any experience, but back then the job of a pharmacy technician was “very basic,” she said. She mostly managed the prescription medication stock.

Over time, her boss (the pharmacy director) took notice of her attention to detail and ability to manage her time and work efficiently. “As pharmacy evolved, I evolved along with it,” she said. “I became a sponge and started attending conventions, conferences, and any continuing education I could to expand my knowledge. The support of my peers and leaders gave me the confidence to excel.” When she began serving on the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy in 2011, she realized it was time to become certified.

“I have taken every opportunity to gain the knowledge and understanding of pharmacy and have evolved into the person I am today,” she said

National Standards for Techs
As a member of ASHP and other national and state pharmacy organizations, Halvorson was appointed by the governor of North Dakota to serve a second term on the North Dakota State Board of Pharmacy, with a goal of implementing education and certification programs in the state. The position has provided a forum to speak out about the need for standardizing pharmacy technician training across the nation.

Currently, there is no standard training or certification on a national level to become a pharmacy technician. Education and certification requirements to earn a CPh.T. degree vary by state. Some states may require more training than others, additional exams, or recertification.

But standardization in the profession is needed now more than ever. Pharmacists are now working in more clinical roles, but prescriptions still need to be filled. “Pharmacy technicians should have the credentials and knowledge to fulfill this role safely and accurately,” said Halvorson.

Expanding Tech Education
Halvorson and many of her colleagues would like to see pharmacy technicians undergo the same rigors of training that pharmacists face. “I feel we should have a national standard that establishes a way to ensure all pharmacy technicians have a baseline knowledge when entering the profession,” said Halvorson. “While our education would not be as detailed as the pharmacist, our process should mirror the process of the pharmacist.” The process would include the completion of an exam that verifies the baseline knowledge, she added.

Halvorson is an advocate for improving technician certification and education programs.

Some of the strictest requirements in her field exist in her home state of North Dakota, where pharmacy technicians are required to receive their education from an ASHP/ACPE accredited program. They must take a national certification exam to demonstrate their knowledge of the field, and they may only earn their certification in the state after meeting those requirements.

Hospital pharmacies in North Dakota are also required to have a quality assurance program to track prescription errors. “If you have a near-miss or a mistake that reaches the patient, you need to document it,” said Halvorson. “Was this an isolated incident? Was there a product problem or process problem or personnel problem?”

Technician Advocacy
Donna Kisse, CPh.T., is a pharmacy technician who has gotten to know Halvorson through their service together in North Dakota’s Northland Association for Pharmacy Technicians. Kisse and other colleagues admire Halvorson for the advocacy work she’s taken on toward a goal of consistent, national certification requirements for pharmacy technicians.

“Since pharmacists are taking the lead in clinical patient care roles, pharmacy technicians must be leaders in supporting standardized qualifications to ensure pharmacies are safe, efficient, and have productive work environments,” said Kisse.

Halvorson became involved with ASHP through the Pharmacy Technicians Stakeholders Consensus Conference steering and advisory committee. “For me, being a member of ASHP has elevated my overall knowledge and fundamental understanding of the opportunities of expansion of the scope of practice that a pharmacy technician can achieve,” she said.

The ASHP Pharmacy Technician Forum, which launched last year, has also been integral to her efforts. She currently serves on the forum’s Patient Care Quality Advisory Group committee.

Halvorson began her technician career more than two decades ago and currently serves as the Lead Pharmacy Technician at Vibra Hospital Pharmacy.

Reducing Prescription Errors
Halvorson hopes that all states will move toward following strict training guidelines like those in North Dakota. By not standardizing pharmacy technician training, Halvorson said the profession is putting the safety of patients in jeopardy. “The consumer believes that any person behind the pharmacy counter has education, that those people know what they’re doing, and that they have a minimum education.”

She recalled an incident that made headlines years ago. It involved Emily Jerry, a three-year-old girl in Ohio who died in 2006 as a result of a hospital pharmacy technician error. At the time of the toddler’s death, Ohio didn’t register pharmacy technicians or require any training or licensing to do the job. In 2009, Emily’s Act was signed into law. The legislation requires that pharmacy technicians be at least 18 years of age, register with the State Board of Pharmacy, and pass a Board-approved competency exam. It also includes requirements related to technician training.

“Humans make errors, and that’s why in a pharmacy you have a check and balance,” Halvorson said. That safety net wouldn’t exist without Halvorson and other passionate pharmacy technicians.

By Jessica Firger

 

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August 31, 2018

Pharmacy Technician Untangles Knots in the Supply Chain

This article is part of a series featuring ASHP’s pharmacy technician members and their valuable contributions to the profession. Check out ASHP’s Pharmacy Technician Forum for more information about efforts to advance the pharmacy technician workforce, as well as ways for pharmacy technicians to become more involved in ASHP.

 

AS A PHARMACY TECHNICIAN WHO WORKS AS A  SUPPLY CHAIN CONSULTANT for McKesson Pharmacy Optimization, Cindy Jeter, CPh.T., solves problems. She uses 20 years of pharmacy expertise, her Lean Six Sigma training, and specialized interviewing techniques to help hospital pharmacies across the country optimize workflow, reduce drug expense, and maintain optimal medication inventory levels.

 

Cindy Jeter, CPh.T.

Super Sleuth

On one assignment, Jeter was asked to use her supply chain knowledge to solve a mystery at a large teaching hospital in Texas. More than half of the IV bags prepared in the hospital’s pharmacy were being sent back to the pharmacy at the end of the day. “This meant that roughly 400 bags of IV solution were unused, resulting in thousands of dollars’ worth of medication being thrown in the trash every day,” explained Jeter. “In addition, pharmacy technicians spent four to five hours every day updating the computer system to make sure patients weren’t being charged for unused IV medication.”

After conducting an in-depth analysis, she identified one major cause, observing that when patients were moved to a different area of the hospital, their IV medications weren’t moving with them. The medication was being reordered once the patient was on the new floor and the IV medications on the old floor were then returned to the pharmacy. With more than 250 intensive care unit beds, the number of transfers among floors each day was substantial.

Once Jeter identified the problem and the causes, pharmacy leadership revised their processes and reduced IV bag returns to the pharmacy by 91%. “Consequently, they saved a lot of money, and staff morale increased because technicians didn’t have to spend so much time at the computer updating patient charges,” said Jeter. The pharmacy staff appreciated that I did the investigative work and removed the problem from their plates so they could concentrate on patient care.”

 

Why Pharmacy?

The satisfaction that comes with solving problems is one of the reasons why Jeter went into pharmacy. Jeter, who resides in Springdale, Ark., has a bachelor’s degree in general science from West Texas A&M University. She landed a job as a pharmacy technician at a community hospital pharmacy in 1998. “I didn’t know anything about pharmacy,” she recalled “But they were willing to teach me and invest time in my development for a six-month trial period.” She passed the National Pharmacy Technician Certification exam and, with her aptitude for business, she found her niche in supply chain pharmacy.

Reflecting upon her career accomplishments, Jeter is most proud of winning an innovation award for a McKesson competition in October 2017. The award will fund an online training course for pharmacy buyers, inventory coordinators and supply chain. It is comprised of courses in key areas that are pertinent to pharmacy purchasing such as inventory management, drug shortages, purchasing analytics, emergency preparedness, and pharmacy regulations. “There is a lack of formal training for this vital staff position,” she said. “The world of pharmacy purchasing has increased in complexity over the last decade and requires more skills than before to navigate the challenges associated with pharmacy purchasing.”

 

Inventory Control

In addition to solving supply chain mysteries, Jeter finds fulfillment in helping pharmacy purchasers with inventory management. “In a hospital pharmacy, it’s imperative that you have needed medications in stock,” she said. “You also need to be prepared to treat many patients at the same time. This differs from retail pharmacies, which don’t have to be equipped with products for emergency situations such as a mass shooting or traffic accidents.”

By helping hospital pharmacies control inventory costs, Jeter believes she saves pharmacy jobs. She explained that there are generally three expenses in a hospital pharmacy: medications, staff compensation, and automation expenses. When hospitals are struggling financially, they either have to cut drug costs or employees. “It’s rewarding to help customers more efficiently manage inventory so they can maintain a full staff,” she said.

Jeter is also passionate about being an advocate for pharmacy purchasers. She noted that purchasers have a difficult job trying to manage drug shortages and provide for patient needs. “It takes a lot of dedicated time and effort to keep the hospital pharmacy supplied with the right drugs at the right time,” Jeter said. “Pharmacy purchasers do not always receive training or professional development opportunities.”

She added that being a purchaser is a complex, complicated, and demanding job. Purchasers have tremendous responsibility in providing for patients and do not have the option of simply being out of a medication or a product. Bringing awareness to the position is critical.

 

Advanced Opportunities

With pharmacists taking on more direct patient care roles, there are more advanced opportunities for pharmacy technicians than ever before. Examples include being a supply chain consultant like Jeter, a pharmacy purchaser, a data analyst, a business manager, or a quality assurance specialist.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there will be a 12% job growth rate for pharmacy technicians between now and 2026. “It’s an exciting time for pharmacy technicians to find their niche,” Jeter said. Her best advice for technicians is to be an advocate for yourself, make a plan to reach your goals, and let your manager know what you’d like to achieve.

 

ASHP Endeavors

Jeter, an ASHP member since 2003, finds the organization’s education and networking opportunities invaluable. “Being able to present to my peers about projects I have worked on has helped me increase my leadership skills,” she said.

From 2010 to 2014, Jeter served on the Section Advisory Group on Pharmacy Support Services. As chairwoman of the group from 2011 to 2012, she advocated for the development of new opportunities for pharmacy technicians. She is excited about ASHP’s Pharmacy Technician Forum, which developed from these discussions, and the future of pharmacy technicians as integral members of ASHP.

More recently, Jeter served from 2015 to 2017 on the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Task Force for Advanced Technician Certification, which is working to advance opportunities for technicians to become certified in expanded roles.

“There has never been a more exciting time to be a pharmacy technician and involved in ASHP,” Jeter concluded. “There are practically endless ways technicians can help patients and provide important care.”

By Karen Appold

 

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September 1, 2008

Helping Technicians Fulfill a Stronger Role

            Safe, effective medication use is predicated on ensuring that everyone on the pharmacy team works at the same level of excellence. In addition to pharmacists, that includes pharmacy technicians, who are the backbone of much of what we do. We need technicians to take on even more if we hope to step out of the pharmacy and onto the patient-care floors.

            Unfortunately, pharmacy technicians are one of only a few positions in healthcare for which there is no standardized training. Yet in order for technicians to play an even greater role as part of the pharmacy team, pharmacists must insist on appropriate technician education, training, and certification.

            ASHP’s position is that all pharmacy technicians should complete ASHP-accredited training programs, be certified by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, and be registered by state boards of pharmacy.

            Getting that done won’t happen overnight. And it can only happen with the help of our members.

            So, we are asking all of our state affiliates to partner with us on a new Pharmacy Technician Initiative. Under the program, each affiliate will work with us to assess existing regulations, existing state-based training programs, and other local factors. In turn, we will help develop a legislative action plan for each affiliate and offer support via the new Pharmacy Technician Initiative resource center on ASHP’s Web site.

            As of publication time, affiliates from the states of California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, and Wyoming have agreed to join with us.

            Stay tuned as we move this exciting effort forward—we’re eager to work with the leaders of each affiliate as we improve the abilities of our pharmacy technician workforce.

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