Pharmacy News

PTCB Considers Changes to Certification, Recertification

[August 15, 2011, AJHP News]

Cheryl A. Thompson

BETHESDA, MD 29 Jul 2011—Sixteen years after administering the first national certification examination for pharmacy technicians, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) is contemplating changes to its testing and education requirements.

The possible changes come from the participants in a summit that PTCB held in mid-February to address issues and provide feedback about future directions and resource development.

Requirements under consideration. PTCB professional affairs director Megan Sheahan said the results of an online survey served as the basis for the summit's discussions and recommendations.

The survey garnered responses from about 12,000 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in various settings, she said.

According to the official proceedings of the summit, available at, the participants recommended three new requirements for everyone who wants to sit for the organization's certification examination:

  1. A minimum period of practical experience,
  2. A criminal background check, and 3. Completion of an ASHP-accredited training program.

For recertification, recommendations were made to:

  1. Accept only pharmacy technician-targeted pharmacy continuing education toward the two-year minimum of 20 hours,
  2. Require that at least 15 of the 20 hours of pharmacy continuing education completed every two years come from state boards of pharmacy, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, employer-accredited programs, or Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)-accredited program providers,
  3. Allow no more than 5 hours of practical or employer-based education to count toward the two-year requirement, and
  4. Mandate at least 1 hour of pharmacy continuing education in medication or patient safety.

Sheahan in mid-July said PTCB's Board of Governors and Certification Council were considering the recommendations on testing and education requirements.

Of those seven recommendations, all but one specify a deadline of 2015.

The recommendation about ASHP-accredited training programs is the exception. Its deadline is 2020.

Relation to optimal practice models. Participants at the Pharmacy Practice Model Summit, held by ASHP and the ASHP Foundation in November 2010, made a similar recommendation on training programs but set a deadline of 2015. This recommendation was made from the standpoint of creating sustainable pharmacy practice models in hospitals and health systems.

Of the seven testing and education recommendations that emerged from PTCB's summit, the one about ASHP-accredited training programs best supports optimal pharmacy practice models in health systems, said ASHP Vice President Douglas J. Scheckelhoff.

Scheckelhoff oversees the Office of Professional Development, which includes the division that accredits technician training programs.

"As we look to changing practice models . . . there needs to be a single standard for training technicians," he said. The goal is to ensure that pharmacy technicians have at least a minimum set of competencies.

Scheckelhoff likened the situation to the licensing of pharmacists: Candidates for pharmacist-licensing examinations must first complete accredited education and structured training.

Scott Jamieson, whose 27-hospital health system served as the cutting-edge practice model for a community hospital system at the Pharmacy Practice Model Summit, favored two of the seven recommendations.

"What would ring most true with us would be the completion of the ASHP-accredited technician training program," said Jamieson, system director of pharmacy services for Renton, Washington-based Providence Health and Services. "Our hiring process already includes a background check for all employees. . . . Practical experience could be just a whole host of difference experiences which may or may not be applicable to our current practice settings."

Scheckelhoff said ASHP's survey of general and children's medical–surgical hospitals in 2010 revealed that 78% of those facilities rely on on-the-job training, with observation, as their primary means of training pharmacy technicians.

Less than 5% of the hospitals reported that the qualifications for the position of pharmacy technician include completion of an ASHP-accredited training program.

Jamieson would also like PTCB to narrow its recertification requirement to continuing pharmacy education activities from ACPE-accredited program providers.

Such a requirement, he explained, would ensure a standard across the country, which is important in the hiring of someone who has moved from another state or region.

Providence operates hospitals in Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

Jamieson said his health system, which employs about 600 pharmacy technicians, has traditionally relied on the relevant state's requirements. But an individual pharmacy director may insist on employing only certified pharmacy technicians.

Montana, Oregon, and Washington require certification by a national group, not necessarily PTCB, according to information at the state boards of pharmacy websites. Alaska and California do not require certification.

Providence's pharmacy technicians "work at the top of their licensure," Jamieson said. They replenish the Pyxis Profile automated dispensing cabinets. At most of the hospitals, if permitted by the state, the technicians check over the work of other technicians. Except at the critical access hospitals, where the low volume does not support the development of a competency program, the technicians compound all the i.v. admixtures.

All of this, Jamieson said, supports the Providence Pharmacy Clinical Practice Model.

The model is based on centralized order processing and decentralized clinical services (see May 1, 2010, AJHP Case Study).

More than testing and education. PTCB held its invitational C.R.E.S.T. Summit on February 17–18 in Palm Beach, Florida.

The acronym comes from consumer awareness, resources, education, state policy, and testing.

Twenty-eight people participated in the summit, along with members of the PTCB staff, including Sheahan.

Two of the participants had also participated in the Pharmacy Practice Model Summit. Neither Scheckelhoff nor Jamieson participated in PTCB's summit.

In all, roughly 30 recommendations were made at the summit.

Support for PTCB's summit was provided by Pearson VUE, the test delivery provider of the computer-based Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination.

ASHP is one of the five pharmacy organizations governing PTCB.


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