I AM a strong advocate of pharmacy technicians. It’s important for me to declare that I have probably learned more about pharmacy practice from my pharmacy accuracy checking technician than any other pharmacy professional in my short career.
I always feel guilty spending more time with some patients, but I know that my accredited checking technician (ACT) and the rest of the pharmacy team are in the dispensary holding the fort. Without this trust, based on competence, I could not fulfil my clinical role in community pharmacy. I practice many brief interventions in asthma and other areas and without my ACT and pharmacy team, this work would simply not be possible.
So what makes a good pharmacy technician?
I think pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have varying skill sets underpinned by common core areas of competence. In terms of the running of my dispensary, my ACT fulfils nearly all the traditional functions that perhaps a number of years ago would have been the preserve of the pharmacist. Handling controlled drugs, supporting the review of standard operating procedures, reviewing dispensing errors/near misses and of course accuracy checking of prescriptions.
The ability of a pharmacy technician to accuracy check prescriptions, in my practice, has been a revelation. An ACT is no less capable of this, in my view, than a pharmacist. To do the clinical check of a prescription and then hand the dispensing process over to the team, lead by an ACT, is a key enabler to deliver ever more clinical care in the community pharmacy setting. But we all know pharmacy technicians can do much more than this. At the moment, however, the roles in community seem somewhat restricted.
I can only speak from experience, but I do know that the extended roles and opportunities for registered pharmacy technicians are now vast. My local health board employ a pharmacy technician and one of her jobs is to be an authorised witness for the destruction of controlled drugs.
In terms of the future roles for pharmacy technicians, my view would be that the ball is firmly in the court of pharmacy technicians. Just like pharmacists, it’s difficult to find a path to innovative and prove ones worth to key stakeholders, but innovate you must. I would like to see registered technicians appropriately trained to deliver clinical services in community pharmacy. For example, my ACT is comfortable conducting smoking cessation consultations and will ask for advice if required. Just like being a pharmacist, a pharmacist independent prescriber, or even a general practitioner, pharmacy technicians must be mindful of the obligation to work within their personal area of competence. That said, I think they should be allowed to do more, much more!
Practising as a registered pharmacy technician holds the same legal and ethical requirements of other professions. Protection of the public and improving care remain the priorities. The concept of competence and demonstration of continued professional development is critical to the success of any professional.
My relationship with my ACT is as professional equals. She is registered with the professional body and so am I. I no longer see her as a junior partner in our working relationship, although there is no getting around the fact that the responsible pharmacist holds ultimate responsibility at the end of the day. I am always grateful for her feedback on my practise and hopefully this is reciprocated. Conversations or queries we encounter when working together often form the basis for both my and her continuing professional development.
I am very much looking forward to attending, and speaking at, the association of pharmacy technician conference on the 10th-11th June later this year. I can’t wait to see what the best pharmacy technicians in the country are up to.
Johnathan is a practice pharmacist and community pharmacy locum.