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State Roundup: North Dakota's Move Toward Expanding Pharmacy Technician Roles at the Counter

by Caitlin Skenyon, PharmD | May 16, 2017


The North Dakota Board of Pharmacy is on the cutting edge of innovations to expand the roles of pharmacy technicians. PTCB recently interviewed Mark Hardy, PharmD, Executive Director of the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy, and Diane Halvorson, RPhTech, CPhT, PTCB’s 2016 Certified Pharmacy Technician of the Year and a member of the North Dakota Board, on a proposed revision to their administrative code to allow pharmacy technicians to assess the need for a pharmacist to provide consultation to a patient refilling a prescription.
 
 
 
 
North Dakota Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Mark Hardy, PharmD



How did the conversation begin about expanding pharmacy technician roles?
Mark:
“The conversation was actually about looking for opportunities to ensure the pharmacy profession is having an impact on the patient at the level necessary to ensure positive patient outcomes. A pharmacist providing a proper consultation is one of the gold standards of our profession. Since North Dakota requires registered technicians to complete an ASHP/ACPE-accredited education and be PTCB-Certified, the Board knew we could look at creating an opportunity for compliance with the consultation standards by allowing our pharmacies to utilize their technicians at the top of their education level by having them screen patients on refilled prescriptions for further consultation.”
Diane: “The initial conversation was about having a positive impact on patient outcomes. The process of constructive conversation among Board members and constituents, and the positive feedback from the pharmacy community, ultimately resulted in the expansion in roles that allows growth for the pharmacy technician.”


What feedback have you received from pharmacists, technicians, employers, and others?
Mark:
“The provisions to allow technicians to screen patients have been received very positively by all parties involved. The Board did not receive any negative comments indicating this allowance was not appropriate.”
Diane: “Feedback has been very positive! The Board reached out to all avenues of the profession in North Dakota and received only positive comments.”
 
What are the advantages of including pharmacy technician assessment for counseling in a rule change?
Mark:
“The ability to screen a patient for consultation on a refill is added by administrative rule as a task that a pharmacy technician may do under the discretion of the pharmacist. The pharmacist in charge and pharmacists on staff are given the full ability to determine how they will utilize their technicians in accordance with this added task.”
Diane: “Our administrative rules pertaining to the role of a pharmacy technician include language stating that it is the decision of the pharmacist in charge and staff pharmacists to determine the   

North Dakota Board Member
Diane Halvorson, RPhTech, CPhT

specific role the technician will play in their pharmacy. So the administrative rule offers the pharmacist the ability to utilize technicians to their full capacity to optimize the best work flow possible while focusing on patient safety.”

What steps might you recommend to others looking to expand technician roles?
Mark:
“Our Board felt like the first step was to make sure we had educated and certified technicians so there is validity in allowing pharmacy technicians to have an expanded role. I would recommend others ask questions of pharmacists on how they feel they can better utilize their technicians to ensure positive maximized pharmacist impact on the patient.”
Diane: “Dr. Hardy brings out great points: First, we want to be certain our pharmacy technicians have the baseline knowledge needed to perform the expanded roles. Second, we want to ensure pharmacists are ready to utilize their technicians in a way that maximizes their knowledge and embraces them as part of the profession.”

North Dakota requires pharmacy technicians to be PTCB-Certified. What are the benefits of requiring PTCB Certification in expanding the practice of pharmacy?
Mark:
“Having certification along with education validates a technician’s ability to serve the public in an ever-expanding role. As the profession of pharmacy continues to modify itself to best serve the public in the health care system, the profession will continually need technicians to expand their capabilities. The public expects those individuals to be educated, trained, and prepared in a standardized fashion and should trust the profession to step up and lead efforts to ensure their staff is competent.”
Diane: “Requiring PTCB Certification is equally important to practicing pharmacy technicians in North Dakota because they expect new technician co-workers who are just hired to have the needed baseline knowledge to safely complete their daily tasks and responsibilities. Requiring completion of an ASHP/ACPE-accredited program ensures they have the standardized education we feel is needed to provide baseline knowledge. PTCB Certification reinforces validation of baseline knowledge. By requiring technicians to maintain certification, we also ensure they are keeping up on the continued education they must have for their registration. As we continue to have the conversation about standardization of requirements for pharmacy technicians on the national level, it is important that we work together as a profession to try to reach a unified decision. We want to ensure we have developed a model that creates portability from state to state and that pharmacy technicians have the baseline knowledge the profession feels is important to meet a broad spectrum of needs across the profession.”

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