Pharmacy Leaders Explore the Future of Pharmacy Technician Education in Iowa

February 06, 2015

Influential leaders in pharmacy education and practice gathered in Des Moines on Feb. 5 to explore ideas and partnerships that could broaden the educational programs available for Iowa’s pharmacy technician workforce.

The state’s first-ever Iowa Pharmacy Technician Education Summit, at the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center, drew representatives from the state’s colleges of pharmacy, community colleges, as well as from state and national pharmacy associations and the Iowa State Board of Pharmacy.

Currently, pharmacy technicians must register with the Iowa State Board of Pharmacy, and also pass a national certifying exam within one year of starting employment. But by 2020 – five years from now – those who take the exam from one of the two accrediting boards, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), must have completed a pharmacy technician education program that is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)/Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). There are currently no ASHP/ACPE accredited pharmacy technician training programs in Iowa.

The University of Iowa College of Pharmacy facilitated the conference, engaging Iowa’s community colleges to discuss ideas for achieving accreditation before 2020. Dean Donald Letendre launched the conference with his vision for pharmacy technician training in the state. He proposed that a cost-effective, unified pharmacy technician curriculum be developed for use in community colleges across the state. Those with existing programs could adopt any additions needed for their programs to seek accreditation. Others could more easily develop technician training programs to increase the regional availability of pharmacy technician training.

Conference sessions included a national perspective about technician education and accreditation of programs, information about statewide demographics and technician education programs, and facilitated discussions about what the future may hold.

As part of Dean Letendre’s vision, The College of Pharmacy could complement and potentially extend the training received at community colleges. Its facilities could be used to provide supervised, hands-on experiences.

One such facility is the college’s Pharmacy Practice Lab. Housed in the Pharmacy Building, it is a technologically-advanced pharmacy used to provide hands-on practice experiences. In fact, the college tested the waters of training future technicians using the lab last fall, when fourth-year College of Pharmacy students provided instruction to Kirkwood Community College technician students. The technicians-in-training learned first-hand what it would be like to stand in a hospital’s sterile compounding room, under a special hood, to compound a medication. They also practiced preparing IV fluid lines. On a separate day, our students taught the future technicians how to convert units of measure and perform other types of pharmacy mathematics.

Iowa’s pharmacy technicians garner an average wage of nearly $14/hour, according to Iowa Workforce Development. Between 2010 and 2020, Iowa Workforce Development anticipates that more than 1,000 pharmacy technician jobs will be added. Nationally, the field is expected to grow by a faster-than-average 20 percent between 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.