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9/19/2000

Competency Exam Proposed for Pharmacy Technicians

Kate Traynor

In response to a unanimous recommendation from state pharmacy boards, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) will consider creating a national competency exam that helps to determine which technicians can safely assist in pharmacies.

The competency exam would differ from the voluntary certification exam that technicians now take to earn their "CPhT" credential. That latter exam is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). 

The issue of a competency exam was discussed last December by the NABP Task Force on Standardization of Technicians' Role and Competencies. Task force member Jeanne Furman, commissioner of the Maryland Board of Pharmacy, said a competency test would address "legal responsibilities and liability concerns." 

Furman added, "If technicians become recognized paraprofessionals they need to be regulated" because of a "responsibility to the public to make sure these people have appropriate training." To address competency issues, various groups have to collaborate, she said. 

NABP's Executive Director Carmen A. Catizone, M.S., said his organization plans to meet with PTCB to "see if there is an opportunity for a cooperative project that will satisfy the needs of the state boards" of pharmacy and to "define what competency is" for technicians. He said a date for this meeting has not yet been set. 

Anne Marie Hohman, PTCB's associate director of operations, said her group looks forward to "working [with NABP] so that the PTCB certification program can meet the needs of the NABP and the state boards of pharmacy." 

In July, the trade magazine Drug Topics reported that the National Association of Chain Drug Stores wants competency assessments to reflect the skills and knowledge specific to the pharmacy setting where a technician would work. The association also raised the possibility that competency testing could allow technicians to assume roles with greater responsibility and help ease the effects of the current pharmacist shortage.