3 solutions to the pharmacy technician shortage

Amid a national shortage of pharmacy technicians, hospital pharmacy teams are forced to get creative when it comes to hiring and retaining enough workers. 

From relying more on interns to partnering with schools, here's how three health systems answered the question, "How has the pharmacy technician shortage affected your organization, and how are you responding?"

1. Jon Horton, PharmD. System Director of Hospital Pharmacy Operations of Sentara Healthcare (Norfolk, Va.): As a profession, pharmacy has experience with providing experiential learning opportunities for pharmacists, and we are working on creating greater bandwidth for training pharmacy technician students. We have partnered with Virginia high schools that have developed pharmacy technician training programs to help students gain required experiential learning hours. 

We also recognize that our team members are at the very core of our success as a healthcare provider, and we must ensure we're providing them with the compensation and benefits offerings that they value most. We regularly evaluate our compensation programs to ensure our salaries remain competitive and reflect the skills, responsibilities and experience talented professionals bring to our organization.

2. Cindy Williams. Vice President of Pharmacy of Riverside Health System (Newport News, Va.): Like many technical roles in healthcare, pharmacy technician demand is outpacing supply. At Riverside Health System, we have worked to provide pharmacy technicians with career advancement through development of a five-tier technician career ladder. We have also increased wages and have partnered with local pharmacy technician training programs to offer experiential rotation sites.  

3. Joseph Stavish, PharmD. Pharmacy Support Supervisor of Jefferson Apothecary at Jefferson Healthcare (Philadelphia): As a manager of the outpatient pharmacy here at Jefferson Health, I can attest that the technician shortage, specifically nationally certified pharmacy technicians, has had a profound impact on our location and workflow. In a very tight job market, it has been challenging to hire and retain staff. The turnover rate for in-demand positions is higher than in the past due to several factors. 

Our talent acquisition team does a great job of seeking out the candidates who will ultimately provide the best fit for our pharmacy team. Patience is key to finding the right candidate while not overburdening the current staff with shared duties. Striking this balance has been the biggest challenge, and continuing to boost staff morale is paramount during the hiring and onboarding process.

Our technicians now focus more on their primary duties so that patient care does not suffer. We have increased our pharmacy intern staffing and assigned many of the technicians' secondary duties to them. This includes things like inventory management, refill requests and prescription order entry. In addition, we've strengthened our partnership with the Jefferson College of Pharmacy, specifically its Department of Experiential Education, to bring in more introductory and advanced pharmacy practice students to assist with our tertiary functions such as medication therapy management as well as social determinants of health outreach pilots. This provides a unique hands-on learning experience for Jefferson students while helping maintain the level of patient engagement required by many payers.

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