Ashley Gallagher: Why are pharmacy assistants starting to leave the profession?
Bill Mold: I will post good news here. According to the data we have, there weren’t as many technicians leaving as we initially thought. The caveat there, like the people who left the profession, at least a quarter of them said it was from increased stress and burnout from COVID directly, and that’s too much. That’s too much of a number, especially in a job market like we have now, where there’s no place in the United States where they’ll tell you they have enough technicians.
I realized that cuts across healthcare, and maybe the entire job market, but we’re talking technicians here. I think COVID was big just lack of team members. Being in a pharmacy with understaffed will increase your own stress and burnout, which can be a vicious circle.
Then if you look at technician wages, it’s a range from about $17.50 per hour to just over $23. It’s pretty compressed. I can definitely tell you that certified mechanics earn more than non-certified mechanics. A CPhT Advanced through PTCB earns more than another CPhT, but if you’re looking for a career path, and you see where the ceiling is, and if it’s $23, $25 an hour, then maybe you’re looking elsewhere, and so on. think that’s a big factor.
This is difficult, I recognize this as difficult. I think it’s important for engineers to stand up for themselves in some of the ways we talked about earlier. It’s even more important to everyone else. When you consider where you have power and influence, right? In an organization like PTCB, a place like APhA or ASHP. And then the employers out there, they have a lot more power and influence over this process. Many of them do the right things, and that takes time. If you’re not, you’re just leaving way, way, way too much potential on the table.
There are technicians who are going to get it themselves, they are going to stand up for themselves, they are going to play a new role in their pharmacy by talking to their pharmacist, but you get even more of those if you put it in place beforehand.
Ashley Gallagher: What is the impact of COVID-19 stressors on pharmacy technicians, and can you talk about what the stressors are?
Bill Mold: At the risk of repeating myself a bit. The only good news was that when we looked at our survey data, everyone recognized that there was a lot more stress. 83% of respondents COVID brought more stress, but the same number 83% said they also felt more excited about their work. They felt more like professionals because they could do more and influence what is probably the most stressful thing that has happened in this country in the past 20 years. That’s really very good.
But then you also have that one quarter that has left the profession, and the stressors are, as we said before, they are overcrowded pharmacies, pharmacies do more there. They were immunizing before, but you obviously had a lot of country coming in for a new immunization, all the testing and then staffing. The staff was not there and still is not in many cases. It’s more hours for everyone and more stress, and you have busy pharmacies that can do that.
Ashley Gallagher: Finally, what would drive the pharmacy technician to stay in the field?
Bill Schimmel: One thing I learned when we first did this survey in 2019 and then repeated it is that more than half of the technicians came to the position because they wanted to work in the healthcare industry. They wanted them to have the desire to help patients, and that was a happy surprise for me. It wasn’t like they were just looking for a job. They wanted to work in healthcare and have shown that they are good at it. They have arrived where they want to be. Again, 59% say this is their long-term career.
I go back to look at the compensation and a career path, and I say career path specifically, not career ladder, because the ladder goes up, but not every technician has to go up. There may be another role in the pharmacy that is lateral. That places them in a place that suits their skills and that is also good for the employer. Those 2 things are the most important. Then of course I’d say it never hurts to earn advanced credentials at a place like PTCB.