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5/10/2001

Technician Careers Continue to Evolve

Kate Traynor

Pharmacy technicians nowadays have great opportunities to carve out rewarding career paths, says instructor Judith D. Blalock, Pharm.D. "They're not just counting to 12, pouring to four [ounces], lickin', and stickin'."

Blalock, the pharmacy technician program director at Bossier Parish Community College in northwestern Louisiana, recalls the days when technicians "couldn’t even pull the drug off the shelf." But now, she says, technicians in her state can do practically anything in the pharmacy except counsel a patient, as long as a pharmacist checks the work.

And Blalock predicts that technicians will play an increasingly important role in health care delivery. "I think that they are going to...become more and more invaluable to the pharmacist, especially in the hospital setting. In a retail setting, they're already...more or less insurance specialists."

These days, Blalock says, technicians are often called upon to run the automated dispensing devices used in health systems. "So many of the hospitals are going completely to Pyxis machines," Blalock notes, referring to a popular line of automated dispensing devices. Her technicians learn to use this type of machinery at clinical sites such as a Veterans Affairs hospital.

Blalock describes clinical pharmacy technicians as the wave of the future. Even now, she says, clinical technicians in some hospitals collect pharmacokinetics data for pharmacists. By taking advantage of their technicians’ clinical skills, Blalock says, pharmacists gain more time to spend on direct patient care.

Blalock recalls being impressed by the initiative shown by a group of pharmacy technicians who worked with her at a Texas hospital where she was the clinical pharmacy coordinator. The technicians learned how to operate the machine that collects a patient’s blood during surgery then processes and returns blood components to the patient. Those technicians are now an integral part of the operating room team. "They saw a hole, a void, and they have really strived to fill it," she says. "And it has really enhanced their education and their income."

Blalock advises technicians to advance their careers by looking for chances to learn new skills. "I think the possibilities are endless."