Pharmacy Workforce

Give Your Pharmacy Technicians the Room — and the Ladder — to Climb

Published: December 5, 2022
Tom Greenlee

Providing pharmacy technicians with opportunities for growth can help reduce turnover.

Pharmacy technician shortages are nothing new.

The recent ASHP Pharmacy Technician Shortage Survey found that the majority of pharmacy leaders reported turnover rates among their pharmacy technicians of at least 20–30%. And nearly 1 in 10 said they had lost 41% or more of those same technicians.

Recognizing that the role of pharmacy technicians is evolving — and taking steps to reflect how the career has changed — can help reverse those trends.

In Monday’s session, Designing a Pharmacy Technician Career Ladder Focused on Advanced Roles, Tom Greenlee, retail pharmacy manager at University of Missouri Health Care, said one of the best tools for helping pharmacy leaders navigate technician shortages is to provide a career ladder within their organization. This is a series of jobs ranging from lower paid with less responsibility to the higher paid with the most responsibility within an organization.

In fact, Greenlee said he’d go one step further and call it a career lattice.

“The big distinction is it doesn’t just allow for vertical movement throughout an organization,” Greenlee said. “It also allows for horizontal as well as diagonal movement. And ... it allows you to focus on finding the best fit for your employees.”

A career ladder — or lattice, if you prefer — consists of six key components:

  • Do a department self-assessment: Inventory your current technician job descriptions, compare requirements and compensation, and begin to organize them in a ladder or lattice format.
  • Identify opportunities: Review the list of informal roles within each position and see if any can be formalized. Identify any gaps in your health system that could be filled with new roles.
  • Create job descriptions: These should include clear expectations, listed duties, and descriptive, creative titles. Greenlee said this can enhance an employee’s sense of identity that they get from their job.
  • Develop training and competencies: Greenlee said training programs can lead to increased wages and promotion opportunities, increased job satisfaction, and increased retention.
  • Engage the key stakeholders: This includes buy-in from both the employees and the health system leadership.
  • Create a formal and informal review process

Greenlee said career ladders or lattices in health systems can have tremendous benefits for employers and employees alike, including the development of a well-trained staff, incentives for professional growth, improvements in employee retention, increases in employee engagement, and help with employee recruitment.

“Sixty-five percent [of prospective employees] consider the idea of upscaling extremely important when deciding to take a new job,” he said. “I never thought about the idea of a training program as a recruiting tool.”

Kayla Hodges, 340B analyst in pharmacy business at University of Missouri Healthcare, said it is important to recognize the changing roles of pharmacy technicians in the healthcare system.

“Technicians are no longer just simply filling prescriptions,” she said.

Instead, she explained that they serve multiple roles in multiple areas, including acute care, ambulatory, technology and automation, purchasing and finance, compliance and auditing, and even supervisory.

“That’s somewhat new to the technician scope of practice,” she said. “But more and more they are handling scheduling, training and workflow management.”


Posted December 5, 2022

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