Thomas Wackerle trained as a physician in his native Austria but settled in the United States after meeting and marrying a woman from the Boston, MA, area. Because he wanted to remain professionally involved in healthcare, he decided to work as a pharmacy technician in his new home country.
That was about dozen years ago, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Now a lead pharmacy technician for Boston Children’s Hospital, Wackerle exemplifies professional advancement in his chosen field. He has earned basic and advanced credentials from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), taken on growing responsibilities at his hospital, and become an active ASHP member. This year, he was excited to join the ASHP Pharmacy Technician Forum Executive Committee.
“Standing still is just not an option,” said Wackerle, who hopes his own forward momentum inspires other technicians.
Wackerle’s career as a technician began at Target Corporation, where he started as a regular team member before moving over to the store’s pharmacy. He became a state-licensed pharmacy technician in 2014.
In 2015, as a newly PTCB-certified pharmacy technician, Wackerle accepted a job at Boston Children’s Hospital. Since then, he’s been entrusted with a variety of traditional and specialized responsibilities. He demonstrated his commitment to lifelong learning by earning PTCB’s Advanced Certified Pharmacy Technician and Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician credentials and completing a dozen specialized certificate programs through PTCB and other organizations.
Today, as the lead pharmacy technician for Boston Children’s satellite facilities in Waltham and Lexington, Wackerle oversees all pharmacy technician operations, including medication inventory and the training of new technicians. He continues to staff the Boston main campus as an on-call technician, and he leads a Lean Six Sigma project to identify cost savings opportunities throughout the pharmacy department, focusing on inventory flow and waste reduction strategies.
Wackerle said he enjoys the variety that characterizes his job. “You come to work, you never know what the day brings — it’s always something fresh,” he said. “Whatever work you do has a direct effect on patient care.”
That includes the hospital’s white bag program, for which Wackerle is the technician lead. He ensures that medications from external specialty pharmacies are delivered directly to Boston Children’s infusion centers for administration to patients. Although the troubleshooting for this service can be intricate, he finds the work varied and satisfying.
“The colleagues make it worth it, because we all pull together as a team . . . to get the treatment outcomes for our patients in a successful way,” he added. “That really elevates the job and how you experience it.”
Wackerle took on additional duties in 2021, when he became an adjunct faculty member for the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University in Boston. He teaches aseptic technique to student pharmacists — and has an outlet for his passion for education.
Before joining ASHP’s PTF Executive Committee, Wackerle served on and chaired the PTF Professional and Career Ladder Development Advisory Group. He has also supported his profession at home as a member of the Massachusetts Society of Health System Pharmacists (MSHP) Pharmacy Technician Committee and a past speaker on PTCB advanced credentialing at MSHP’s annual meeting.
Wackerle said the technician workforce should continue to develop alongside pharmacists, who are taking on additional clinical roles.
“It’s already happening,” he noted. “It’s just not really common knowledge in the community.”
More than a dozen states have adopted progressive policies for that allow supervising pharmacists to delegate advanced tasks to qualified pharmacy technicians, according to ASHP’s government relations team.
“We should see a push toward that across the board within the next few years,” Wackerle said. “If you free up the pharmacists’ time from operational tasks, they can just bring patient care to a whole new level.”
Allowances made during the COVID-19 pandemic created new opportunities for qualified pharmacy technicians to vaccinate patients. Technicians are also becoming more involved in medication therapy management and other advanced tasks.
“There’s great opportunities there for all of us,” Wackerle said.
Wackerle cautioned that not all employers understand the meaning and value of specific PTCB credentials and certificates — and this can be an obstacle to advancement. He said advocacy by organizations such as The Pharmacy Technician Society (TPTS), which was launched this past November, can help overcome that barrier.
Fresh from TPTS discussions and networking at the 2023 ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition in December, Wackerle said he and his technician colleagues are “supercharged ... and ready to go.”
“We can have technicians have a voice, and it’s really awesome that ASHP is behind that, and they support us and nourish us,” he said. “There was a lot of cheering across the board.”