I’ve been a fan of your articles in Drug Topics for a while now, but have never written you before. The reason I am writing now is because your article in the July issue really struck a nerve with me. I couldn’t agree more with what you have to say about pharmacy technicians, our responsibilities, and our current wages. I live in Rhode Island and have been working as a technician since 1997. I worked for one of the three large chains in this area for about 3-4 years, and I’ve been with my current employer, another of the big three, for the past 10-11 years. I am PTCB-certified since 2000 and a level-II technician through the RI Board of Pharmacy, with II being the highest level.
Yet, for all of my on-the-job experience and certifications, and the fact that I’ve been a loyal employee to both chains, the wage that I still make is absolutely not enough to support myself, let alone if I had a wife or children. Even though I’m not a pharmacist, I truly love the pharmacy profession. My mom was a tech in RI for about 15 years as well and was the reason I got into it as a high school student just looking for a part-time job.
Over the years, I’ve had several other jobs in the pharmacy field, such as working for a pharmacy software company where my responsibility was to train the hospital pharmacy staff how to use our system. I also worked for a career-training school in their pharmacy technician program, one year as an instructor and one year as the externship coordinator. Point being, I’ve seen the pharmacy technician role through several different perspectives, and none of them are good.
During my time at the career-training school, I was specifically told by my bosses to NEVER discuss how much a technician can realistically expect to earn. I felt horrible about this because I really felt like I was deceiving my students. Here they were, eager to be in school, ready to begin a new career, and paying thousands upon thousands of dollars to complete a program where the end result was a job making minimum-wage. I had students break down and cry in my office after they had graduated and explored the job market, only to find that the jobs they were now fully qualified for paid them less than what they were making stocking shelves at WalMart or bagging groceries at supermarkets.
Unfortunately, I don’t see things getting better anytime soon. Until it finally happens, pharmacies are going to have a hard time attracting quality technicians and will have an even harder time retaining them. I don’t think the big pharmacy chains even care about this issue in the least bit either. They are big corporations and see techs as the expendable “little man”, with no real respect for our profession.