Professional Advice / Opinions:

Expanding a Technician’s Role

By: Sang Hyo Kim, Staff Editor

Pharmacy, like much of medicine, is constantly changing, and the new changes in pharmacy practice are even happening to technicians. While there were originally no national standards for pharmacy-technician education and training, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) have collaborated and announced their decision to accredit pharmacy technician education and training programs beginning in late 2014.1,2 Their new plan will result in the creation of a Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission (PTAC), which will be tasked with assuring and advancing the quality of pharmacy technician education.1

Accreditation, by definition, is a system for declaring that a program or institution meets established quality standards to provide assurance and confidence to the public.2 Accreditation seeks to enhance the quality of a program and an institution by promoting self-evaluation, encouraging improvement, and providing public accountability by ensuring specific criteria are met.2 ASHP, serving since 1982, is responsible for accrediting pharmacy residencies and pharmacy technicians, while ACPE, serving since 1932, is recognized for accrediting professional degree programs in pharmacy and providers of continuing pharmacy education.3 The creation of the PTAC will  allow the technician training program will now become more focused. For example, the current programs will need to lengthen training schedules to provide more-in-depth coverage of educational goals and objectives. Lab topics such as extemporaneous compounding, sterile product preparation, and computerized application of record keeping and drug distribution systems will be reinforced in classroom instruction before onsite experiential training begins.2 Lab exercises will prepare the trainee for practice in variety of pharmacy settings such as acute care, ambulatory care and chronic care.2

The role of current technicians includes any medication or pharmacy related role that do not require the clinical judgment of a pharmacist. Some technician roles include purchasing and inventory maintenance, data input, billing and insurance and assisting in prescription dispensing.The ideal technician role is one that enables pharmacists to devote more time to patient care.4 Fred M.Eckel, Editor-in Chief of the Pharmacy Times,however mentions that some pharmacists are against the advancing of pharmacy technicians because technicians might end up being expanded into pharmacist practice arena such as independently refilling prescriptions. Further, he emphasized that hospital pharmacists became upset when the state pharmacy board wanted to implement new regulations that would allow certified pharmacy technicians to perform “tech check tech” functions such as filled unit dose carts. Therefore, hospital pharmacists feared that their job as dispensing pharmacists might be eliminated. However, Fred Eckel mentions that in order for pharmacists to practice at the top of their license, they must be freed from the pill counting tray.5

Although the accreditation of pharmacy technicians is not yet nationally set, we need to question certain factors. To train technicians at the highest ability may require more funding to the accreditation programs, as well as the increase of tuition for applicants who are interested in the degree. As technicians also play a greater role in the pharmacy setting, they will also demand higher salaries. Eckel, Pharm D says “For employers to be able to pay more, they will expect more, thus I am suggesting that employers may play a role in helping to advance a broader role for pharmacy technicians.”5 This statement seems to be oversimplified. In independent pharmacies, employers can pay higher amounts to technicians. Employers at pharmacy chain corporations such as Duane Reade or CVS may not want to pay more for technicians than the minimum wage. Also, graduates of Pharm.D compared to 2001 have increased massively in number that employers at chain corporations may prefer to pay higher to one pharmacist rather than paying higher to several technicians.

Distributing wider role to technician may seem to clash into duties only pharmacists can do, but there will always be a strict line between a technician and pharmacist’s role. Granting technicians more responsibility may overall help the pharmacist to interact more with patient healthcare, as Editor-in-Chief Eckel mentioned. Pros and cons certainly remain to be discussed.


  1. New Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commision Launched. Pharmacy Times. August 20th, 2013. Accessed August 30th, 2013.
  2. Pharmacy Technician Accreditation. ASHP. August 31st, 2013.Accessed August 31st, 2013
  3. Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission. ASHP. Accessed August 31st, 2013
  4. Cassano A, Pharm. D. Expanding the Role of Pharmacy Technicians. Pharmacy Purchasing & Products. Published April 2012. Accessed September 20th, 2013
  5. Eckel M, F. Who is in Charge of Pharmacy Technicians? Pharmacy Times. Published September 19th, 2013. Accessed September 19th, 2013.
  6. Brown D, PharmD. A Looming Joblessness Crisis for new Pharmacy Graduates and the Implications it Holds for the Academy. PMC. June 12th, 2013. Accessed September 20th, 2013
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