Lost in Translation: Why ASL Fluency Matters for Pharmacy Technicians


by, NPTA Staff

As the population ages, hearing loss is becoming more common, and many deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals rely on America Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language. Unfortunately, many pharmacy technicians are not equipped to serve these patients, which can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and ultimately poor health outcomes. However, for pharmacy technicians, learning ASL can make a big difference in the level of care provided to patients. Here are a few key benefits of ASL training for pharmacy technicians.

Improved Communication Leads to Better Health Outcomes

One of the most significant benefits of ASL training for pharmacy technicians is improved communication with deaf or hard-of-hearing patients. With knowledge of ASL, pharmacy technicians can communicate clearly and effectively with their customers. They can explain how to take a medication, ask in-depth questions about symptoms or health conditions, provide comprehensive warnings about potential side effects, and address customer concerns. Without the barrier of written notes, gestures, or lip readings, communication is much more effective, and patients feel heard, understood, and cared for. This leads to better health outcomes and compliance, which is essential for any healthcare role. Thus ASL training is invaluable for pharmacy technicians.

Cultural Competence and Inclusiveness

ASL also demonstrates high cultural competence and inclusiveness, which further builds trust and loyalty with deaf and hard-of-hearing patients. When pharmacy staff can fully accommodate different abilities and learning styles, they value all customers equally. True cultural competence leads to the best possible customer service, profound satisfaction, and long-term loyalty. With strong ASL skills, pharmacy technicians can ensure those patients feel welcomed, understood, and cared for during every interaction. This creates an open and trusting relationship and encourages patients to seek care proactively, disclose health issues openly, and follow recommendations faithfully. Cultural competence is key to providing the best treatment for any healthcare role, and ASL fluency allows technicians to deliver inclusive, patient-centered care to that community.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Being bilingual in English and ASL opens up more opportunities for career growth as a pharmacy technician. Those with strong ASL proficiency can assist a broader range of customers and may be able to take on additional responsibilities like training new technicians, serving as a point of contact for deaf and hard-of-hearing patients, or advocating for greater accessibility. ASL fluency also makes candidates stand out when job seeking, increasing their chances of being hired or promoted. Cultural competence and strong communication skills are highly desirable for many healthcare roles, and fluency in ASL demonstrates both. Bilingual pharmacy technicians in English and ASL will be attractive candidates and have a distinct advantage for career advancement. They can pursue leadership positions, mentor other technicians, or transition into roles with greater responsibility.

In conclusion, ASL training for pharmacy technicians leads to improved communication and cultural competence with deaf and hard-of-hearing patients, creates more opportunities for career growth, and ultimately provides a higher quality of service and care for this underserved community. While learning a new language takes time and practice, the rewards for technicians and patients are invaluable. With more healthcare providers gaining these skills, people of all abilities will have equal access to the treatment and resources they need to live healthy lives. For pharmacy technicians, ASL training is an investment that pays off through better patient outcomes, a more satisfying carer, and a chance to make a real difference. 


** If you are interested in learning ASL - check out Dr. Ashley Walker's American Sign Language 101 course.