Often called the ‘unsung health care professionals,’ pharmacy technicians help provide quality and integrated patient care. Yet most of the public is unaware of the value they bring to a health care team. In fact, many see pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants as one and the same.
But there’s a notable difference between the two — in both their credentials and scope of practice. As accredited and licensed professionals, pharmacy technicians must complete a two-year college diploma. Their role is to perform the technical aspects of care, so the pharmacist can focus solely on the clinical and therapeutic aspects and engage with the patient.
“That’s a major gap the public needs to understand,” says Colleen Norris, President of the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Technicians (CAPT). “The tech is not just there to count pills — they have much more to do.”
The tech is not just there to count pills — they have much more to do.Colleen Norris, CAPT President
An indispensable role
Aside from improving the workflow by relieving the pharmacist of technical tasks, the pharmacy technician can supervise pharmacy assistant’s’ work and check the prescriptions that have already been reviewed by the pharmacist to ensure the right medication is going to the right person at the right time in the right dosage. They can also assist patients with blood/glucose monitors and teach them how to use their inhaler properly. “In many cases where a patient comes in and asks to speak to a pharmacist, it’s actually the technician they need to speak to,” says Norris.
Having a public that’s well-educated on what pharmacy technicians can offer benefits to both patients and the profession. CAPT is working to raise awareness of this relatively new designation, which was established in 2010.
As the only national advocacy association for pharmacy technicians, CAPT is encouraging Canadian pharmacy technicians to join them. “The more members we have, the more we can do in return for them,” says Norris.