Technicians.. The Indentured Servants of Pharmacy. Pathetic.

Jp Enlarged

The guy is the technician. The girl is the Pharmacy Manager. All this and $12.00 an hour.

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.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. uk prescription medicines  •  Aug 3, 2011 @2:05 pm

    I wanted to say this blog is kinda awesome. I always like to learn something new about this because I have the similar blog in my Country on this subject so this help’s me a lot. I did a search on the issue and found a good number of blogs but nothing like this.Thanks for writing so much in your blog.. Greets, Krystin Sheerin

  2. ODP  •  Aug 3, 2011 @10:42 pm

    I whole-heartedly agree with this letter as well as your article in Drug Topics. The really sad part is the college programs charging thousands of dollars for a training program to prepare students for a test that most people could pass by simply reading a $20 book from Amazon and putting in some time to learn brand / generic names.

    I also do not understand how the technician certification training courses improve patient safety at a retail pharmacy:
    - Technicians are not allowed to counsel patients.
    - Most pharmacists do not allow technicians to complete a drug utilization review when filling a patient’s prescription (if the pharmacist does, he is asking for problems).
    - Most technicians are delegated to counting pills, data entry, stocking shelves, answering phones, running a cash register, and dealing with insurance companies. I don’t see how a pharmacy technician training course would provide much improvement in these areas. A couple days of on-the-job training should more than suffice.

    The worst part is many pharmacy technicians become frustrated after they achieve their certification since
    - the tech is still making a low wage
    - the tech has “all this knowledge” but still can not counsel patients (and if they tried, they still don’t know enough to provide all the necessary information – “a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing”)
    - the technician’s hours are the first things cut when the company wants to lower its costs
    - pharmacy automation is looking to make the technician’s job obsolete (med fill robots, drug pickup ATMs, etc.)

    I often complain about working as a retail pharmacist – but at least I am well-paid for it. I can’t imagine having the tech’s job.

  3. urbanRph  •  Aug 3, 2011 @11:22 pm

    I could not agree more.

    The trend I see in most retail pharmacies is that Rx techs are treated as expendable. The only ‘good’ technicians I have worked with are ones that aspire to become pharmacists/doctors/vets and as a result don’t want to remain a ‘good’ tech.

    What you are left with are people that don’t want to be there or people that just don’t give a damn and do just enough work to stay below the radar of corporate. [sadly, that amount of work is very VERY small]

    I am not a HR specialist. But the failure of retail pharmacies to recruit and retain competent technicians is something that will impact the long-term sustainability of retail pharmacy.

    Just my opinion,

    UrbanRPh

  4. wise in nj  •  Aug 17, 2011 @6:54 pm

    Oh,BTW, most XXX pharmacist’s in Jersey were canned because “THE TECH’S” had an issue with them.
    I.E.”How many times do I have to tell you,if you put the WRONG DATE IN,MEDICARE WILL TAKE THEIR MONEY BACK”
    Ohhh, “boo-hoo” say the techs…….Too Bad,MISCONDUCT,says XXX…….

    They want H1b permit holders ,pay them less, and have techs run the show.

    Been there,saw that.

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