Solidifying the ‘backbone of Pharmacy Services’: New program designed to recruit, train pharmacy techs
At Michigan Medicine, pharmacy technicians are critical to clinical care in both the inpatient and outpatient settings.
They help to procure, compound, dispense and distribute medications — as well as playing a major role in inventory management for thousands of drugs each day.
“In short, our pharmacy techs are the backbone of Pharmacy Services,” said Stan Kent, R.Ph., M.S., chief pharmacy officer at Michigan Medicine. “That’s why it’s essential that we educate, train and retain as many technicians as we can.”
Pharmacy Technician Training Program
With that in mind — and with a nationwide shortage of technicians affecting health systems across the U.S. — Pharmacy Services is creating the Pharmacy Technician Training Program, designed to attract candidates for open tech positions. The program is set to begin this fall.
“The great thing about this program is that candidates will not need to have any background in pharmacy before they come to Michigan Medicine,” Kent said. “Of course, it is always an advantage for us to hire technicians that already have training and/or experience if possible. Through this program, potential candidates will be fully trained with our own specialists and complete coursework that will allow them to get certified and licensed in the state of Michigan.”
Once they complete the program and earn their certification and license — which typically takes about six months — the participants will be placed into open roles within the Department of Pharmacy.
To give you a better sense of the type of work pharmacy techs perform and why the job is so fulfilling, Headlines caught up with just a few of them in recent weeks. Here’s what they had to say:
Q: What is your job like on a day-to-day basis?
Mandy Silvani, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital: My job is very hands-on. I restock Pyxis machines while also checking for expired stocked medications. I also assist the pharmacist on codes (when we help treat patients undergoing cardiac arrest), order stock for the entire pharmacy including IV medications, compound oral medications — working with nursing on timing of patients drips so they are loaded in time — and fill stat oral medications.
Esther Im, Meds to Beds Program: My job in Meds to Beds is to deliver medications to patients in their rooms as they are about to be discharged. Our team works hard to process, fill, communicate and deliver medications in a timely, accurate way.
Michael Vargo: C&W Inpatient Pharmacy: My usual staffing position is pediatric oncology, where I am tasked with compounding chemotherapeutic infusions. As a pediatric oncology pharmacy technician, I review medication orders as they are sent to me and compound and sort the medications appropriately through our computer system. Additionally, I compound non-hazardous intravenous medications and oral medications for acute and critical care services. Finally, I am working on a joint project to write policies and procedures for implementing a Tech-Check-Tech program.
JoJo Frye, CVC and UH operating rooms: I do IV compounding, deliver medication to nursing units and OR areas, fill anesthesia trays, build anesthesia narcotic kits, assist surgery and anesthesia staff at the busy OR pharmacy window, and fill medication orders and pre-operative orders.
Kimberly Tucker, various locations: My day may consist of working in the “Vault” where I dispense all narcotics to all areas of the hospital including CVC, Mott, ULAM and outlying clinics. I also could work as the kit person, where we refill all used kits that are used in several areas of the hospital and ones that are transported with ambulances. Me and a few other people also check for expiring narcotics and dispose of ones that have expired.
Rich Fauls, ambulatory rheumatology clinic: I prescreen insurance coverage for anticipated medication treatments and work to resolve any coverage barriers that may come up.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
Brandon Biggs, Rogel Cancer Center Infusion Pharmacy: I only became a full-time employee in June, and it’s already clear that the best part about this job is knowing that my work is very important and helps people daily.
Natalie Lindman, IDS/Research Pharmacy Department: I love the variety of my work. There is always something new to learn. And this is a fantastic environment for continuous learners and growers.
Joey Jessing, Compounding Compliance Team: No two days are ever the same. I rotate through things like conducting media fill tests, compounding site audits and training new employees to compound who may or may not have previous experience. On top of those duties, I get to participate in new software implementation, policy and process development, projects surrounding compliance standards and measures that are being taken to meet state and federal regulations, and continuous learning/teaching opportunities.
Silvani: Every day is different and I am always learning something new. I love going home knowing that what I did is going to positively impact a sick child and help them on their road to recovery.
Tucker: What I like best about my job is knowing that we are helping patients and my teammates. I love the other techs I work with!
Vargo: It is hard to pinpoint facets of the job I like the most. However, I love the technicality and requirement for detail. I use my skillset to its full extent daily, emphasizing keeping an eye out for medication errors to keep our patients safe, healthy and pain-free.
Q: Have you had formal training as a technician, or has it been on-the-job training?
Biggs: I have only received on-the-job training, including being shown the work processes while I was still a temporary employee. In fact, before coming to Michigan Medicine, I did temporary work in catering and seasonal work on a Christmas tree farm while attending college!
Silvani: I did have formal training as a technician through a program offered through Henry Ford College and then gained experience at a smaller community hospital.
Im: Before coming to Michigan Medicine, I was a student with no formal training in pharmacy. Therefore, all of my training has come on-the-job here with my colleagues.
Lindman: I had mostly on-the-job training. But before being a pharmacy technician, I completed a paramedic program and that really helped me with medication names and the fast pace in a hospital setting. It was a great experience!
Fauls: I was trained on the job and never in a formal setting. I started as a technician in a retail pharmacy and have worked my way through various pharmacies before landing at Michigan Medicine in 2014.
Jessing: While I did have formal training as a technician — which was certainly helpful — I think the most impactful training I had was on the job itself. I found that a more hands-on, realistic approach to training is the best at preparing you for a day-to-day job.
Are you interested in joining the Pharmacy Tech Training Program at Michigan Medicine or know somebody who might be interested? If so, contact Mike Kraft at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note, these positions are eligible for the Employee Referral Program, which can earn faculty and staff up to $1,500 should a person they refer be hired by the organization.