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What is the future for technicians?

Pharmacy technicians are crucial to the accessibility and continuity of healthcare.
William Schimmel is the executive director/CEO of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board

When COVID-19 began, pharmacy technicians stepped forward. The pandemic forced the U.S. to significantly expand emergency healthcare services as authorized by the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (or PREP) Act, and this legislation recognized the skills and talents of the provider team. Now that the public emergency is over, the public must be aware of the status of the PREP Act, what the future holds and how it can affect access to health care.

Though the Public Health Emergency expired on May 11, specific provisions of the PREP Act have been extended through 2024. Pharmacy technicians will maintain authorization to immunize patients as part of this extension, helping to ensure underserved communities continue to have access to vaccinations. It also helps improve overall pharmacy operations. 

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Extending this critical piece of the PREP Act acknowledges technicians’ essential role in our healthcare system and reassures patients that there is a skilled, qualified workforce dedicated to keeping them safe. Despite this recognition, the authority is temporary and states that have not already done so need to develop and implement regulations to ensure continuity of care. 

Data from some state-run pilot programs before the pandemic offer additional evidence to support permanently expanding technicians’ responsibilities. 

As of May 2023, 27 states have made permanent changes to pharmacy laws and regs. Some state boards of pharmacy had the authority to do this through rulemaking processes, while others had to work with state legislators to enact laws. At the time of publication, there were 20 additional states with pending legislation. 

These changes will further empower an already committed frontline workforce. As demonstrated by PTCB’s 2022 Workforce Survey, technicians are invested in their careers, with 84% of respondents reporting that they are somewhat to very satisfied with their job. Half of the PTCB-certified technicians surveyed have worked in the field for at least 10 years, compared to just 8% of non-certified techs. 

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Understanding their necessary role as part of a pharmacy team, technicians actively seek opportunities to grow their skills, advance their careers and provide optimal patient care. Seeing the critical need for immunizers during the public health emergency, more than 1,800 technicians have earned the PTCB Immunization Administration Certificate since its launch in 2020. When asked about their interest in pursuing this certification in the survey, 58% of technicians who answered said they were somewhat or very interested.

“My employer has recognized my accomplishments, and my company rewards us based on our credentials through compensation and acknowledgment,” said Nicolle Forrest, CPhT. “And being a technician, especially during a global pandemic, has made me realize how essential we are to both our pharmacists and our patients in the community we serve. I had the opportunity to become a certified immunizer and help keep people informed on their vaccine statuses. I look forward to expanding my knowledge by obtaining additional certificates and continuing my growth in this field.”

Technicians provide a valuable perspective of the pharmacy industry, which is why at least 14 states have included a tech to serve on their board of pharmacy since 2007 and several more states have added a technician seat in recent months. This workforce has been vital to protecting patients long before the pandemic, and regulations should reflect their significant impact on improving public health

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