The Best Inpatient Setting Jobs for Pharmacy Technicians
by Rachel Hawkins, CPhT
When you've been working in one pharmacy setting for a while, it is easy to get into the groove of things. As a new technician, you have so much to learn and master that finding your way from the time clock to your workstation can seem overwhelming. Once you get settled, and you've conquered your role, it's natural to want to see if there is more to learn.
Often, this means changing practices. It only takes one post on social media inquiring about less stress, more pay, or career advancement to bring on the "Make the move to hospital practice" comments. Mind you, the first two options in hospital practice are primarily based on the setting, your experience, and the company you work for. Opportunities for advancement are growing everywhere for technicians.
Career advancement opportunities in the hospital setting are opening as practice models change simultaneously for pharmacists. With the move to take pharmacists out of distribution practice and move them into more direct patient care roles, available roles that pharmacy technicians can fulfill are starting to open. The ability to complete some of these roles may depend on individual state Board of Pharmacy rules. The names of the positions may also vary, but their responsibilities are very similar.
Investigational research involvement is growing within the pharmacy. While some medical groups may provide oversight for their research studies, pharmacies are more familiar with and equipped to monitor medications, maintain records, and abide by strict regulations. It makes sense to have a pharmacy technician manage the process and paperwork. A technician specially trained to maintain temperature and inventory logs, review and audit preparation and dispensing logs, and administration and destruction records can catch errors easily missed in the day's chaos.
Controlled substance diversion, auditing, and compliance are other areas where pharmacy technicians are beginning to expand into administrative roles. Technicians can detect possible diversion by following patterns that go against standard practices. A technician who is aware of policies and procedures, sometimes aided by software, and has a keen eye, can identify irregular patterns or behaviors and detect if a healthcare worker could be diverting medications. This pharmacy personnel can also work with the DEA if a healthcare provider is suspected of being involved in something on a larger scale.
Compliance coordinators play an important role, especially in hazardous and cleanroom settings. With the anticipated updates to several USP chapters, navigating and maintaining these standards is essential. Monitoring environmental air and surface samples, ensuring that staff is compliant with competencies, and media fill and fingertip testing require continuous oversite. In larger hospital and health system settings, pharmacy technicians can have direct oversight and work alongside administrators to identify trends, breaks in technique, and implement root cause analysis for detected contaminants to provide action plans to correct the problem.
Inventory analysts work like pharmacy buyers on a larger scale. With drug shortages as prevalent as they have been, an inventory analyst can work within a health system to identify the usage of a particular drug for a specific facility and move that drug to or from a location based on need. This helps to optimize inventory, prevent waste, and create temporary relief if a facility cannot get a particular medication. They can also work to locate distributors for drugs that are proving difficult to procure, to provide uninterrupted patient care.
An information systems analyst is also a field that is opening for pharmacy technicians. Most larger hospital systems have moved to computer order entry as the days of carbon-copy order forms, and printed order sets are long gone. Each care team in a hospital setting has its section of information systems experts to help make the end-user side of things run seamlessly. This includes a pharmacy department.
Traditionally, pharmacists have shifted into the information systems side to assist with building order sets, provide insight on how orders should flow throughout the system, and provide clinical insight on dosing, alerts, etc. Pharmacy technicians are now branching into this area to provide their expertise. Many technicians interact with the data systems when taking medication histories or communicating with nurses and have insight into how the systems work. Technicians with this knowledge can provide support and input as plans are being designed or upgrades are being pushed out.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for new opportunities to advance and expand that are opening up for pharmacy technicians. With these new positions opening and an experienced workforce wanting to continue to push the ceiling up, it is no surprise that this shift will leave many openings for technicians that are patient-facing. Naturally, that requires trainers and mentors to be present to grow the new staff that will replace them. Institutions are not letting that go unnoticed. Technician roles that are responsible for onboarding and training new (and existing) employees are being implemented at the health system level to create a smoother transition into the busy workplace.
Are you interested in creating positions like these in your workplace? That's a great feeling! Do your homework. If your facility doesn't currently have roles like this for technicians, reach out to other facilities in your state or even out of state. Ask them a lot of questions! Read your state's Board of Pharmacy rules to learn what technicians can and cannot do. Start small, even if just with process improvements, to foster an environment with a growth mindset. Identify a mentor who can help move invisible barriers out of the way and can help you promote support from administrators.
Are you already implementing these kinds of changes in your workplace? Write about the fantastic things you have done or the lessons you have learned along the way. The best way for us to move up collectively is to learn from each other.