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SSgt Mary Johnson is Named 2017 PTCB CPhT of the Year

Johnson promotes safer opioid dosing standards and prescription guidelines abroad

October 16, 2017

Washington, DC -- The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) has named Staff Sergeant Mary Johnson the 2017 PTCB Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) of the Year©. SSgt Johnson is the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Pharmacy Services at Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base in Germany, the largest technician-led pharmacy in the US Air Force serving 2,800 military members and dependents. She will be recognized at a PTCB reception on December 5 at 5:30 PM at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Midyear Clinical Meeting in Orlando, FL.

SSgt Johnson launched a major policy initiative to implement new standardized opioid prescription guidelines in Air Force pharmacies in Europe. The initiative has been adopted by providers and is under review by senior military officials in Germany. “The seriousness of the opioid epidemic facing the US made me ask myself how I could make a difference,” said SSgt Johnson. “I became familiar with the opioid limitations being implemented in the States, such as limited day supplies for acute pain and stricter dosing regulations, and decided to take a proactive approach toward safer opioid dosing here. Our pharmacy’s nine health care providers have embraced the initiative. I hope standardized opioid dosing will be adopted across Europe soon to combat the growing epidemic.”

“PTCB applauds Staff Sergeant Johnson for her successful initiatives to implement best practices and standardize opioid policy improvements to advance patient care. We are pleased to honor her as PTCB CPhT of the Year,” said Everett B. McAllister, MPA, RPh, Executive Director and CEO of PTCB. “She is an advocate for rigorous technician certification by demonstrating the value and high level of responsibility of CPhTs in leadership roles.”

In her position, SSgt Johnson faces the unique challenge of filling prescriptions from providers in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. “International prescription practices vary in different countries, and verifying prescriptions can be complex,” she said. “Understanding the range of standards overseas and effectively communicating US standards ensures our pharmacy provides safe care abroad.” She took action to standardize prescription requirements for 55 international providers by creating a template identifying the specific US requirements for a military treatment facility.

“One of our pharmacy’s patient safety goals is to reduce referrals of patients off the base because this can delay their proper treatment,” explained SSgt Johnson. She issued US prescription requirements in Dutch and German to her network providers to ensure accuracy. As a result, 14,000 prescriptions were translated and filled correctly in the course of a year and more than 200 patient off-base referrals were avoided. SSgt Johnson procures unique medications through the pharmacy’s special order program to enable more patients to fill prescriptions on base. These efforts have prevented referral of 34 patients and saved the clinic $42,000. She established 24-hour care for dental emergencies and a protocol for after-hours dispensing, thereby decreasing referrals for emergencies and saving $20,000 the first 4 months.

SSgt Johnson authored and presented ‘European Prescription Regulations and Standards Compared with Federal Guidelines in the US’ at the 2016 Joint Federal Pharmacy Seminar to 2,000 pharmacy personnel across DoD. An abstract of her paper was published in the January-February 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association

“I am deeply honored to be PTCB CPhT of the Year,” she said. “My advice to CPhTs would be to commit yourself to the highest standards of excellence in all that you do.” SSgt Johnson said she would welcome new opportunities for civilian and military pharmacy technicians to interact and share experiences. “We each have so much to gain from the other. Creating an environment for civilian and military technicians to get together on social media or in person would help us learn new ways to tackle our challenges.”

PTCB's CPhT of the Year Program honors and recognizes individual achievement in patient care, leadership, and innovation as a way to encourage excellence among all pharmacy technicians. Hundreds of CPhTs were nominated for the 2017 CPhT of the Year from across pharmacy settings. Finalists included CPhTs Adam King, Amanda Kuzma, Glen Gard, Leslie Jackson, Nicole Bernabe, and MSgt Robert George.