Directly Speaking - Annual Meeting Town Hall

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President
October 9, 2015

ICHP’s 2015 Annual Meeting was my 23rd Annual Meeting as an employee and the Council’s 40th overall! This Annual Meeting hosted ICHP’s 4th Town Hall Meeting in two years and several important issues were discussed. Two of the issues dealt with training and education of the pharmacy workforce.

The first of these two issues was residency training. How do we expand the number of available positions and sites in Illinois? How do our members start a residency program if they haven’t already? What can ICHP do to help?

These are very important questions. ICHP is, can, and will be helping. We hope to provide training on the ASHP Residency Learning System at one or more of our upcoming statewide meetings. In addition, we regularly provide educational programming that focuses on precepting skills for students and residents. In the coming few months ICHP plans to create a platform for online communities which may be the most important piece to the puzzle. Online communities for residency directors and for residents themselves could have a dramatic impact on residency programs across the State. Idea sharing and assistance in problem solving are two great benefits from online communities, and the two aforementioned groups could have a lot of issues to discuss.

An interesting observation from this Town Hall Meeting is that there was no pushback about whether or not residency training was necessary. The issue never came up. Maybe because it has been discussed at length in a variety of circles or maybe the current feeling is it is inevitable someday just like the PharmD debates of the 1990’s that became the requirement of 2001. It’s hard to say, but it was nice that the topic didn’t surface.

The second issue related to training and education was PTCB’s proposal to require accredited education and training prior to sitting for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (PTCE) in 2020. While this is currently a proposal, most pharmacy organizations are working on a plan to meet it should it become a requirement. In Illinois there are only a handful of accredited training program located in places like Harvey, Chicago, Springfield, Peoria, and Quincy. The current curriculum and standards for accreditation by the ASHP/ACPE joint venture are substantial and to some seem more than needed. The recently formed joint venture between ASHP and ACPE is a step in the right direction, and that group must act quickly to revise standards, not to dumb down the training but to make the training reasonable enough to make it feasible for all pharmacy employers to move toward it willingly.  

In addition, there are many non-accredited training programs and a few accredited programs that are gouging the technician students with exorbitant tuition because they know that students can obtain student loans for this training. This action takes advantage of students in the worst possible way creating substantial debt for a career that often starts at little more than minimum wage. Community colleges seem to have the most affordable and supportable approach to the training, but because there is no legal requirement for completion of these programs currently, they struggle to retain students through the completion of the programs. ICHP encourages all employers of pharmacy technicians to allow their technician hires to complete the programs once they have started.

ICHP is always communicating with potential providers of technician education and training, and we work to support programs that are affordable and comprehensive. ICHP will not support programs that take advantage of students or rotation sites. One exciting potential provider is Pharmacy Technician University. They are working on an online training program that provides the didactic and at least some of the simulation components of the current ASHP/ACPE curriculum. This program will be available to pharmacy organizations at what will be a hopefully very reasonable fee. This program could provide individual pharmacies, health-systems or community colleges that presently do not offer accredited pharmacy technician training with an inexpensive platform to serve as a foundation for establishing new programs.

At the Town Hall, members were encouraged to work with their local community colleges to establish new accredited pharmacy technician training programs, as students who need financial assistance will have a better chance of receiving it within those programs and the overall cost to individual pharmacy departments will be substantially reduced. The community college system provides great partners for pharmacies and pharmacists as they work toward this goal.

To paraphrase former ASHP Executive Vice President, Henri Manasse, pharmacy technician training in the U.S. is our (pharmacy’s) dirty little secret right now. No other health care personnel outside of dietary workers (not dieticians) and housekeepers can do their jobs without some form of formal required training and education. This is a dirty little secret that we must all work together to put to bed for good!

One topic related to training and education of the pharmacy workforce that surprisingly wasn’t raised was the oversupply of pharmacist graduates and pharmacy schools. Maybe it’s a topic that has been beaten to death or maybe those in attendance have just given up complaining? Or maybe many of those in attendance have ties to academia? Regardless, I was pleased it wasn’t raised, or we probably wouldn’t have gotten to any other topic. It could be a topic for another day, another “Directly Speaking” or another Town Hall Meeting, but this is all the exposure I hope to give it for a while!

You can access a formal summary of the Annual Meeting Town Hall notes on the ICHP website.

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