One of the most exciting things about the pharmacy technician career is the fact that it is growing at an alarming rate. With that growth, career advancement opportunities are at an all-time high. Pharmacists, slowly but surely, are beginning to see the benefits of educated and trained pharmacy technicians. The following article will highlight some of those advancement opportunities.
One of the first things that I would suggest for any pharmacy technician looking to advance him or herself is to get certified by Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Why PTCB? Because it is the only nationally recognized certification credential. Once a technician passes the exam, he or she can use the CPhT credential after his or her last name (i.e., Elina Pierce, CPhT). Although there is another test available (ExCPT), why spend the money on a test that may or may not be accepted by another state? Who knows? You may not stay in the same state. Be prepared and always have a plan B in place.
You may not think inventory management is a big deal, but imagine being in charge of millions of dollars and ensuring that the million dollars lasts an entire year? That is the case in many hospitals. So, an inventory specialist needs to make sure that the drugs that the hospital purchases are the most cost effective, that they or their alternatives are available, and that there is a consistent rotation of stock. It is a huge undertaking. In the retail setting, inventory specialists do the same thing but on a smaller scale. A technician is in charge of ensuring that the medications are ordered, added to inventory upon arrival, placed in the right place so that they can be found, and returned appropriately when and if expired.
Although this is not available in all states, tech-check-tech is being used by some hospitals around the United States where technicians check the work of other technicians after applying and being approved for such a responsibility by the state’s Board of Pharmacy. Tech-check-tech has been studied off and on since 1978, and after 11 published studies, the results are that pharmacy technicians’ accuracy is very comparable to that of pharmacists (99.3% versus 99.6%) (Adams, Martin, & Stolpe, 2011). Not too shabby for technicians who are thought of not being capable of such responsibility.
Insurance billing is more common in retail pharmacies as hospitals usually rely on the billing department to process claims. A pharmacy technician working in a retail setting can attest to the fact that he or she spends a good portion of his or her day on the phone with insurance companies. Everything from simple claim submission to chargebacks (claims that have been rejected and must be resubmitted for one reason or another) needs to be submitted correctly in order to receive the maximum reimbursement. Another part of this area is to ensure that if reimbursement is not the greatest, other options are investigated.
Sterile and nonsterile compounding is becoming more and more in demand. Sterile compounding refers to compounding of products that require a sterile and septic environment (i.e., eye solutions and IV products). Non-sterile compounding refers to compounding of all other products (i.e., those that do not require a sterile or aseptic environment). As the need for individualized dosing becomes more and more of a concern, technician who are skilled in compounding are becoming more and more sought after. Once a pharmacy technician is proficient with sterile compounding, the next step up would be to work for a chemotherapy or nuclear pharmacy.
Pharmaceutical Representative / Drug Representative
Another area of advancement is being a pharmaceutical representative. These individuals work with a pharmaceutical company. They receive in depth training about a particular medication and are then charged to communicate that knowledge to other members of the healthcare team, including but not limited to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians.
Medication Therapy Management (MTM)
Pharmacy technicians can help pharmacists in the medication therapy management (MTM) process. This process ensures that what the patient thinks he or she is taking is, in fact, what he or she is taking and that there is a communication process in place between the prescriber and the patient with pharmacy personnel as the experts in medication therapy. The MTM process is all about education and ensuring that patients are aware of what they are taking, for what medical condition, and how often they are taking it. Its focus is to allow patients to have an active role in their healthcare as it pertains to their medications. Technicians can help gather information from doctors and patients so that the pharmacist can assess the information for problems, issues, and concerns.
Some technicians find themselves fascinated with pharmacy technology. As a result, they can be hired by various manufacturers of such technology to install, maintain, and or fix the technology in various pharmacy settings and provide training to pharmacy personnel.
This list is not conclusive. Technicians are doing great things if and when they are given opportunities to do so. It is amazing how far the career area has come from 10 years ago. As long as we (technicians) educate ourselves and set ourselves apart from others, this career area is going to continue to grow.