Directly Speaking - PTCB: Where are we and where are we going?

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President
August 17, 2015

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Pharmacy Technician Board, Inc., a not-for-profit certifying body established in 1995 by four pharmacy organizations. Two State associations, the Michigan Pharmacists Association and the Illinois Council of Health-System Pharmacists, which had both been in the certifying business for several years, and two national associations, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which both read the writing on the wall saw that the time for national certification of pharmacy technicians had arrived!

Since those early days in 1995, PTCB has certified over half a million pharmacy technicians nationwide. In addition, PTCB Certification is included in the regulations of 23 states and 45 states now regulate pharmacy technicians in some manner of registration and/or licensure. In addition, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy became a co-owner of PTCB in 2001 bringing even more credibility to this national standard. Finally, many of the initial foes of PTCB are now partners and satisfied users of the PTCB exam, supporting it by paying for their technicians’ exam fees and providing salary increases to successful exam candidates. We’ve come a long way, baby!

ICHP remains an owner and retains a seat on the PTCB Board of Governors as well as a seat on its Certification Council. Barbara Limburg Mancini currently represents ICHP on PTCB’s Certification Council and serves as its President in 2015. I serve as a member of the Board of Governors as the Governor at Large currently, having just completed my second two-year term as Board Chair in 2014.

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (PTCE) has not changed dramatically over the first 20 years, although the test blueprint has been updated nearly every five years during that time period. The test remains 90 questions to be completed in 1 hour and 50 minutes. Ten of the questions are not scored but are new items that are evaluated for reliability, validity and bias. Scores are scaled with a range of 1000 to 1600 and a passing score of at least 1400. Candidates may take the PTCE up to four times, if necessary.

A Certified Pharmacy Technician may recertify every two years by completing 20 hours of continuing education which includes at least one hour of pharmacy law and one hour of patient safety. The Illinois General Assembly passed HB3219 this June that, if signed by the Governor, will require the same of all of its Certified Pharmacy Technicians. This year PTCB also reduced the number of CE hours obtained through in-services from 10 to 5 hours per two year recertification period.

So where is PTCB and the PTCE headed in the near future? In 2016, PTCB will decrease the hours of CE obtained through pharmacy-related course work from 15 to 10 during the two-year recertification period. In 2018, the ability to obtain CE hours from in-services will be dropped completely.

Perhaps the most dramatic change to prerequisites for the PTCE is projected to occur in 2020, when a candidate for the PTCE must have completed an accredited training program prior to sitting for the exam. ASHP and ACPE have partnered to accredit technician training programs nationwide and are working diligently to ensure access to technicians in all parts of the country. PTCB is monitoring the situation carefully and is working with ASHP and ACPE to find all forms of acceptable routes for potential programs.

In addition to changes with the examination and the CE requirements, PTCB is working on additional pharmacy technician certifications in the area of sterile product preparation and possibly advanced certifications in hospital and community pharmacy. These advanced certifications could provide the foundation for career ladders and future advancement for pharmacy technicians and the practice itself.

PTCB’s mission is to advocate a single national standard for pharmacy technician certification, a position consistent with the approach by other professions, including the pharmacist license process. PTCB develops, maintains, promotes and administers a nationally accredited certification and recertification program for pharmacy technicians to enable the most effective support of pharmacists to advance patient safety. (This comes straight from the PTCB website.) As a Governor and founder of PTCB, that has always been our goal!

The first 20 years have been exciting and the next five look to be equally thrilling! I am proud that the leaders of ICHP have always been on the cutting edge of this endeavor!

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