Behind the Counter on Pharmacy Technician Day 2023: How Pharmacy Technicians Drive Quality Improvement and Safety

Pharmacy technicians in a group talking.

Guest Author:

Jennifer Buffie, B.Sc., B.Sc.(Pharm.), B.Ed., ACPR, CTH™
Instructor (Lead), Pharmacy Technician Program, Manitoba Institute for Trades and Technology
Community Pharmacist, Assiniboine Pharmacy

The introduction of Safety IQ brought a new focus on safety processes and learning opportunities to pharmacy staff working in community pharmacies in Manitoba. Benefits to patient and public safety are undeniable, but the additional tasks and expectations for already overworked pharmacy managers have in some cases worsened the strain on pharmacy teams. The tasks and processes required by Safety IQ need not and should not rest solely with the pharmacy manager.

Safety IQ is a team effort, extending beyond pharmacy managers and pharmacists. When it comes to safety culture and continuous quality improvement, hierarchies are neither necessary nor appropriate. Pharmacy teams must embrace collaboration and mutual support through complementary roles that value expertise over practice designations and titles.

Pharmacy technician expertise and insight into the technical aspects of prescription preparation, workflow, and task design make them ideal delegates for many of the responsibilities of Safety IQ. While overall compliance with Safety IQ remains the responsibility of the pharmacy manager, pharmacy technicians can serve as safety champions, lead CQI projects, and serve as CQI Coordinators. They are qualified and well-positioned to assume responsibility for:

Through their active, hands-on involvement in all aspects of product distribution, pharmacy technicians have an in-depth understanding of tasks and procedures and are able to assess systems and processes from a uniquely technical position. They can lend a perspective that is different from managerial and clinical viewpoints to analyze, make effective changes, eliminate redundancies and insert check points to improve medication safety and patient outcomes.

Delegating many of the Safety IQ tasks to pharmacy technicians allows pharmacies to better meet and adhere to Safety IQ requirements. Additionally, there can be increased overall accountability and development of safety culture among pharmacy team members, which can be lost when the pharmacy manager assumes sole responsibility for safety initiatives and program compliance.

Beyond Safety IQ, pharmacy technicians can improve care delivery and teamwork in community pharmacies. In an overtaxed healthcare system, community pharmacies have become more critical than ever. An aging population, vaccinations, primary care practitioner shortages, and expanded scope of practice for pharmacists are compounding existing challenges for community pharmacies. In addition, recent healthcare crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic have required pharmacy teams to assume an even greater and more visible role in public health to reduce burdens on the healthcare system. Pharmacy technicians practicing to their full scope can ease the pressure on pharmacists by allowing them to focus on the clinical, rather than the technical, aspects of pharmacy care.

By including pharmacy technicians practicing to a full scope in your community pharmacy team, you can reduce the risk of patient harm, ease pressure on team members, and deliver better overall care to your patients and clients.  

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