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4/12/2002

Technicians' I.V. Training Opportunities Are Limited But Available

Kate Traynor

Few options exist for pharmacy technicians who want hands-on experience in learning how to prepare intravenous (i.v.) admixtures—but the situation may be changing.

Beth Kurtz, pharmacy manager at Battle Creek Health System in Battle Creek., Mich., said her hospital provides specialized on-the-job training for newly hired i.v. admixture technicians to ensure they can properly prepare the solutions. Pharmacy technicians are responsible for preparing most of the i.v. solutions made at the hospital, she said. Even technicians who prepared i.v. admixtures elsewhere must go through Battle Creek's training, which Kurtz described as "a fairly heavy-duty class."

But on-the-job training is not the only way for technicians to learn about i.v. admixture techniques.

The National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA), through an agreement with Quest Educational Services of Ipswich, Mass., last summer launched an i.v. admixture certification program that offers American Council on Pharmaceutical Education-approved continuing-education credit to technicians who complete the course.

NPTA created the program because "there was a lot of demand from our membership looking for specialization programs," said President Mike Johnston, CPhT. "No other organization was really coming out with specializations for the pharmacy technician, so we felt that was a good way to advance the profession."

Johnston described the NPTA course as a six-week program that includes 30 hours of online study and 10 hours of hands-on "aseptic laboratory training." He said the course meets the requirements of all states that require specialized i.v. training for pharmacy technicians. Technicians must receive their CPhT credential from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board before taking the course.

Although the online portion of the course can be completed at home, the hands-on training is offered only in Houston.

"We have a really nice, pretty extensive lab facility set up with a partnership through...the Professional Compounding Centers of America," Johnston said. "It is a very intense course."

Johnston said that NPTA's first hands-on training session, which was attended by about 10 students, wrapped up this spring. These students, he said, were "either working in a hospital setting or in an institutional setting, and they're wanting to get a national certificate backing what they currently do. Or it's individuals from other practice settings that are interested in advancing their career opportunities."

About half of the students were reimbursed by their employers for the $1,000 course, Johnson said, and the other half paid out of their own pockets.

Pharmacy technicians who are unable to attend the NPTA course or learn on the job may be able to obtain i.v. admixture training elsewhere.

Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Md., is one of many schools that offer comprehensive pharmacy technician training programs. Students who enroll in this type of program typically take a series of classes and earn a certificate on completion of the coursework.

Mary Ann Polacek, M.S.N., director of Anne Arundel's pharmacy technician training program, said that the course in i.v. admixture training is part of a broader class on pharmaceutical preparation techniques taught at the college.

"People are welcome to take [just] that course," Polacek said. Although there are prerequisites for the class, Polacek said that the requirements could be waived for a practicing technician who already knows the basics of the profession.

Polacek sees the need for such training opportunities. "People want to upgrade their skills," she said, adding that training can bring increased job security.

But so far, Polacek said, no technician has taken the class on pharmaceutical preparation techniques outside of the full curriculum, although people have inquired about the option.

Even schools like Bidwell Training Center Inc., in Pittsburgh, and Greenville Technical College in Greenville, N.C., which offer pharmacy technician training only to students enrolled in a full-scale program, may be willing to offer more specialized training in the future.

"I think that would be a good market, but it's one that we haven't tapped into yet," said Dolores Sewchok, director of Bidwell's pharmacy technician training program, when asked about the possibility of offering specialized i.v. admixture training for technicians. She noted that Bidwell's staff is meeting with representatives from local hospitals and community pharmacies to explore the need for specialized continuing-education training for pharmacy technicians.

Paul Wagner, director of the pharmacy technician training program at Greenville, said his school is likewise discussing whether to offer continuing-education courses and might consider an i.v. admixture course if the demand is strong.

To learn whether a technician training program in a certain locale will allow students to sign up for a single course that offers i.v. admixture training, or to learn about comprehensive technician training programs, consult the ASHP-Accredited Pharmacy Technician Training Program Directory.