March 23, 2020
Every successful specialist relies on a trusted sidekick. Pilots have copilots. Doctors have nurses. Lawyers have paralegals. For pharmacists, there’s technicians. From checkout duties to filling bottles, pharmacy technicians perform virtually every essential function of the pharmacy except for counseling patients, verifying prescriptions, and making decisions about patient medications.
“It’s universal that technicians are a big asset to pharmacists,” said David Dubose, RPh, founder of PassAssured, an online pharmacy technician training program. “Without technicians, pharmacists would have to be doing the remedial stuff like counting and pouring and sticking labels on bottles instead of doing what they’re educated to do.”
As the engine of the pharmacy, technicians need to be fully capable, reliable, and competent, not only for the business but also for the safety of patients. One way to ensure that is through certification. In some states, certification is a requirement for technicians, although each board of pharmacy sets its own standards. At least 24 states require technicians to become certified by passing one of the two major examinations: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam by the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Examination for the Certification for Pharmacy Technicians by the National Healthcareer Association.
Colleges and trade schools offer technician programs that prepare students for the exams, but many aspiring technicians don’t have the funding to pay for school or don’t have the time for traditional classes. Others already work in pharmacies and want to take the next step. For those aspiring technicians, PassAssured offers another way. With more than 240 hours of curriculum featuring interactive multimedia, the online program lets students practice at their own pace and test their readiness with a practice exam provided by the PTCB. The program boasts an 87 percent pass rate for those who complete the full course and take its final exam.
Even with its passing pedigree, Dubose said to think of the program not simply as a means of passing the exam but also as effective training for great technicians. The course goes beyond the exam essentials, teaching practical skills like communicating with patients and using a cash register. “We teach them to be good technicians,” he said. “And as a side effect they pass the national exam.”
A longtime pharmacist and former pharmacy owner, Dubose was training technicians long before PassAssured existed. For years he instructed students at Lamar State College where he co-developed the Pharmacy Technician Training Program and authored an instructional manual to assist candidates to pass the PTCB exam.
In the late nineties he started traveling through Texas conducting seminars for technicians, which produced successful results. Although his program was effective, he had trouble reaching people outside of the state. How could he increase his reach to help more aspiring techs achieve certification? The light turned on when he received an interactive CD-ROM in the mail that contained a training program for an advanced pilot license. It was then, in 2001, that Dubose came up with PassAssured, created as CD-ROM that could be shipped across the country. Now it’s available entirely online and accessible in nearly every electronic format, including on cell phones. Students or employers pay a flat fee for the program and gain access to its entire library of materials.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects technician employment to grow seven percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. It has been named among the nation’s leading job shortages, which makes hiring competitive and finding candidates difficult, especially for rural pharmacies. These factors make a home-grown approach an appealing route for many owners, and one they can implement through PassAssured.
“It makes for one heck of an employer-based training program,” Dubose said. “You hire a technician and they have a good personality and it’s someone you want to keep, then you purchase the program and you can monitor the employee’s progress. A lot of pharmacies, especially ones with more than one store, will want to set up a little training school.”
This article was published in our quarterly print magazine, which covers relevant topics in greater depth featuring leading experts in the industry. Subscribe to receive the quarterly print issue in your mailbox. All registered independent pharmacies in the U.S. are eligible to receive a free subscription.
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