ASHP InterSections ASHP InterSections

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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April 3, 2018

For Pharmacy Technician Krystal Green, the Sky’s the Limit

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

Krystal Green, CPh.T., M.B.A., explains how to hold a needle syringe unit to Kelsey McCulloch, a pharmacy technician student.

KRYSTAL GREEN, CPh.T., M.B.A., is not one to shy away from a challenge. In 2015, she set out to do nothing less than build the Piedmont Virginia Community College pharmacy technician program, located in Charlottesville. With only two other ASHP-accredited pharmacy technician programs in the state at the time, Green’s efforts filled an important need for robust technician training.

Standardized, high-level pharmacy technician training is critical to ensuring patient safety, since medication preparation is one of the highest-risk components of the medication-use process, according to an editorial published last year in AJHP. With highly qualified pharmacy technicians overseeing many aspects of the medication-use process, pharmacists can focus more of their time on providing direct patient care services.

Accredited Training Programs

More than 250 formal technician training programs are currently accredited by ASHP/ACPE (Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education). “Accredited programs give future pharmacy technicians the opportunity to learn and practice hands-on skills that are vital to the position,” said Green. “The lab courses and the clinical rotation give students a chance to work through new technician jitters. After they complete the program, I believe graduates enter their new positions ready to work with confidence.”

Creating the Piedmont Virginia Community College pharmacy technician program was not Green’s first foray into building an accredited technician training program. In 2013, she helped gain accreditation for the Virginia College pharmacy technician program in Richmond. Prior to establishing the two programs, Green had practiced as a technician in a variety of settings, ranging from a Walgreens in Richmond to the Cardinal Health nuclear pharmacy in Richmond to the inpatient IV compounding room at CJW Medical Center’s Chippenham Campus. “I loved being in the IV room because it allowed me to use all of my skills,” she said. “I loved the calculations and creating special dilutions.”

Success with Students

Green currently serves as the director of the Piedmont training program. Perhaps part of the reason that Green has settled into this position is that the role allows her to nurture others. “I treat my students as I would my children,” said Green, who is currently the only instructor but hopes to grow the program and recruit one more colleague. “I absolutely love passing on my knowledge to help shape them into pharmacy technicians who have patients at the center of what they do. To see the students become professionals and enjoy their work is priceless.”

Green and McCulloch practice transferring tablets from the tray to the dram.

In addition to teaching technical skills such as medication distribution, dispensing, pharmacy calculations, sterile and nonsterile compounding, and processing insurance claims, Green emphasizes professionalism and treating each patient with respect. “When people come into the pharmacy, we don’t know what they’re going through. We can make at least five minutes of their day less stressful through a warm welcome, by being helpful and polite, and having empathy,” she said

Imparting a well-rounded body of knowledge to the 17 students who have gone through her program has paid off, with a 90% pass rate on the technician certification exams and full employment following graduation. With 17 unfilled technician positions in the Charlottesville area at Green’s last count, the six students currently enrolled in the program will be in high demand once they complete their studies.

“The word has gotten out that our graduates are very well prepared to work as pharmacy technicians, and pharmacies are coming to us to recruit them,” Green beamed, noting that, among other successes, one graduate now contributes to the University of Virginia’s meds-to-beds program and practices in a clinical environment. Another graduate was hired into the IV room setting straight out of the program — an achievement Green said typically requires at least a year of post-certification work. “I am extremely proud of my students,” said Green.

ASHP Membership

Krystal Green, CPh.T., M.B.A.

As an ASHP member since 2011, Green made use of the organization’s resources during her program accreditation process. She also finds sessions at the Midyear Clinical Meetings geared toward pharmacy technicians to be a wellspring of ideas for lectures and lab exercises. The Midyear Clinical Meeting offers her a way to become familiar with the structure of other academic programs. “Exhibit hall vendors give me an idea of what can be done in the lab and what the latest technology is, which helps me prepare students for what’s coming up ahead,” said Green.

Green is also involved with the Virginia Society of Health-System Pharmacists (VSHP), which named her Pharmacy Technician of the Year in 2013 for her role in gaining accreditation for the Virginia College program. “Through VSHP, I’ve found opportunities to network with other pharmacy technicians,” she said, adding that she is hoping to work with VSHP to deepen the organization’s engagement with pharmacy technicians.

Life at Home

Outside of work, Green enjoys spending time with her 11-year-old “four-legged child,” Mena, a Miniature Pinscher. “She loves riding in the car, and often when I’m leaving for work, she’ll run out and sit by the car tire,” Green said.

She also enjoys traveling, most recently to Cuba, and is planning to visit Thailand and Greece in the near future. “I love a good beach,” she said. “Give me blue water, hot weather, some nice scenery, and good food, and I’m happy.”

Future of Pharmacy Technicians

ASHP has supported the advancement of technician roles for decades and recently launched the Pharmacy Technician Forum. It will provide tools, education, and other resources to help pharmacy technicians expand their practice. “I think the forum is going to solidify the importance of pharmacy technician roles in all pharmacy settings and propel technicians into even more advanced roles,” said Green.

When asked to peer into her crystal ball and forecast the future of pharmacy technicians, Green said she thinks they may take on additional clinical roles in the future, including advanced medication therapy management tasks. “Pharmacy technicians are more than capable of assuming a lot of responsibility,” she said. “The sky’s the limit.”

 

By David Wild

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October 19, 2017

The New ASHP Pharmacy Technician Forum

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

I AM VERY HAPPY TO INFORM YOU of the recent unanimous decision by the ASHP Board of Directors to create a new ASHP Pharmacy Technician Forum! ASHP has always had a pharmacy technician membership category, and we currently have many pharmacy technician members. However, our goal for the Pharmacy Technician Forum is to create a much more well-defined membership home for pharmacy technicians, which provides enhanced educational, training, and career opportunities for a very important segment of our pharmacy workforce.

I think we all agree that pharmacy technicians are one of the cornerstones supporting the advancement of pharmacy practice and the safe use of medications. With a pharmacy technician workforce that has accredited training and is certified, pharmacists will be able to spend the majority of their time providing direct patient care. Pharmacy technicians are extremely well-positioned to manage the vast majority of medication preparation and distributive activities in pharmacies, along with other advanced technician functions on patient care units and in clinics. ASHP wants to do everything it can to help pharmacy technicians assume these important roles.

ASHP has been a leader in advancing the roles of pharmacy technicians for decades, and we are eager to take things to the next level with the new ASHP Pharmacy Technician Forum. We want to engage our technician colleagues in meaningful ways, hear their needs, and design services that help them elevate their careers. A consistently educated, certified, and eventually licensed pharmacy technician workforce benefits the public and patients, other providers, healthcare organizations, and the entire pharmacy profession. It also helps create a clear pathway for individuals who wish to make being a pharmacy technician a career.

We plan to have the new Pharmacy Technician Forum up and running in early 2018. We will be reaching out to pharmacy technicians and encouraging them to become members of ASHP, which will include a wide array of opportunities to grow personally and professionally. All current pharmacy technician members of ASHP will automatically be members of the new forum, and others will be invited to join and become part of something that seeks to further elevate the role of the pharmacy technician to new heights.

I hope everyone shares our excitement about the new ASHP Pharmacy Technician Forum. It is noteworthy that it is happening now at the conclusion of our 75th anniversary year, the tagline of which is “Creating the Future.”

Thanks for being a member of the fastest-growing and most forward-looking organization in pharmacy, and for everything you do for your patients and our profession.

Sincerely,

Paul

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