Guest Post: Why Pharmacy Technicians Must Be Certified

I get lots of press releases or opportunities to speak with people sent to me. Ashley sent me a request to post an entry on my blog. I gave her a topic that I thought would be interesting, and she followed up with a story. Here it is.

We’ve all seen and interacted with pharmacy technicians more than a few times; they’re the people in the drug store who fill out your prescription and work behind the scenes at the pharmacy. Because certification is not a necessity in a few states, some pharmacy technicians are able to gain employment based on their experience or willingness to learn quickly on the job. They work under a licensed pharmacist and are not allowed to advise patients regarding their medication or any other aspect.

But more often than not, they do interact with patients and offer solicited advice and answer any question they’re asked. It’s no big deal as far as the patient is concerned, unless of course, something goes drastically wrong. If there’s a mix-up with the drugs or if a dispute arises as to the nature of advice given (the patient may misunderstand what the technician says, disregard any words of caution given, or just be careless in following instructions), then the fat is in the fire. And if the pharmacy technician in question is not certified, the problem magnifies exponentially.

Pharmacy technicians must be certified because although experience does count, it is more valuable when built up on the foundation of education and the certification process which teaches them the right way to do things. Certified pharmacy techs have an advantage in that they are aware of the legal ramifications of their job and are able to act accordingly when it comes to dealing with patients in the absence (or presence) of a licensed pharmacist. Also, if anything goes wrong and a patient sues the pharmacy, certification helps to prove the credibility of the technician and holds more water in a court of law. Also, in some states, even though certification is not really necessary to work as a pharmacy tech, there must be one certified technician on duty in the absence of a licensed pharmacist.

Although there are only a few states that require pharmacy technicians to be certified, others will be soon following suit because employers are increasingly looking to hire only techs that are certified and because it’s easier to standardize the quality of patient care provided at pharmacies when all the employees are certified by an accrediting board. As of now, Louisiana, Wyoming, Utah, Virginia, New Mexico and Texas require pharmacy techs to be satisfied. Illinois and Florida will soon pass requirements for certification within the next year. And Kansas, Georgia, Maine, North Carolina and Tennessee require the presence of at least one certified technician if there are more than three or four pharmacy techs at work.

To become a certified pharmacy technician in the USA, you must have a high school diploma, GED or a foreign equivalent, and clear the examination administered online by the Institute of Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). The ICPT offers the ExCPT exam while the PTCB allows you to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), the only pharmacy tech exam endorsed by the American Pharmacists Association.

You must complete 20 hours of continuing education every two years to keep your pharmacy technician certification status, and at least one of those hours must be in pharmacy law. Also, you are disqualified from certification if you have any felony or drug-related convictions or are under any restrictions from your State Board of Pharmacy.

By-line:

This article is contributed by Ashley M. Jones, who regularly writes on the subject of Online Pharmacy Technician Certification. She invites your questions, comments at her email address: ashleym.jones643@gmail.com.


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