Canada’s new pharmacy technicians are helping streamline the way pharmacies operate. Under new regulations, these techs have independent authority to prepare, process and compound prescriptions, ensuring accuracy and proper completion.
By Lawrence Herzog
They’re changing the landscape and helping pharmacists so they can spend more time with patients and provide better service to customers.
Meet three pharmacy techs who have completed the courses to upgrade their qualifications and are making a difference on the job right now:
Tammy Glaser, Shoppers Drug Mart, Brockville, Ont.
Taking on more of the load
A graduate of Algonquin College in 1997, Tammy Glaser started the bridging program in 2011 with four online courses through Centennial College over the course of a year.
“Being a tech changes the dynamic of the pharmacy,” she says. “Quite often, there is a backlog of refills and phone calls and questions from patients, and I can now take on a lot of those time-consuming tasks so that the pharmacists can focus more on enhanced patient care. If a compliance pack person needs something checked, then I can check it and the pharmacist can spend more time focused on the therapeutics.”
In the heart of downtown Brockville with a growing retirement population, this pharmacy location is busy, and being a pharmacy tech means Glaser can take more of the load now, she says. “I do a lot of compliance pack checking, and I also call patients and make sure they have their patches and inhalers and other needs fulfilled. I can answer more questions and give more to the patient than I could when I was a pharmacy assistant.”
When a pharmacist is counselling a patient and a doctor calls, she can take that call and relay the information. “We do 250 compliance packs a week, and that takes time. If they only have to spend a half hour a day going over what I’ve done instead of seven or eight hours a day, that frees up a lot of time for patient care.”
Genevieve Moen, The Medicine Shoppe, Edmonton, AB
Helping to run a smoother system
To become a licensed pharmacy technician, Genevieve Moen took three classes at NorQuest College in Edmonton and an online course through Red Deer College.
“The courses have made a significant difference in my knowledge and the range of tasks I can perform,” she says. “Now I can check and release any Schedule 1 or 2 drugs or compounds, gather patient information, provide patients with assistance on use of medical devices, and operation of medical devices. I can receive and transcribe verbal instructions over the phone from doctors on anything that isn’t a narcotic or controlled drug, and transfer prescriptions to other pharmacies.”
Moen also gathers patient information, information on allergies, and instructs patients on operation of medical devices like glucose monitors, asthma puffers and blood pressure machines. “I am able to answer which auxiliary labels go on which drugs, how to word certain instructions for certain prescriptions, drug pricing and that kind of information. It has definitely freed up the pharmacists’ time and we run a smoother system.”
The pharmacist at the Meadowlark location runs a travel vaccine clinic, and having a registered pharmacy tech allows him more time to concentrate on the clinic, she adds. There’s also more time for the pharmacist to conduct full medication reviews. Thanks to having a trained RPT on staff, patients are getting an even higher level of care.
Darlene Avila, Rexall Pharma Plus, Mississauga, Ont.
Increasing pharmacy efficiency
“I always like to learn more and keep up with my continuing education,” says Darlene Avila. “So this was my next step.”
A dozen years after graduating from Humber College in Etobicoke, she returned to take online courses and gained her pharmacy tech qualification in 2013. “Now I can help my customers a lot more, without waiting for the pharmacist. Within the scope of my practice, if a customer wants me to call a doctor for a new prescription, I can do that. For transfers to other pharmacies, I can do that and not have to wait for the pharmacist.”
There’s less stress now, she reports, and having a tech on duty speeds the workflow. “We’re a lot more efficient, and customers are typically in and out within 10 to 15 minutes. With pharmacists having more tasks on their plates now — with in-pharmacy meds checks, at-home med checks, flu shots, hemo codes and all these programs that are available to patients now — it’s nice to have a registered tech in the pharmacy so that pharmacists can have the time they need with the patients.”