ST. LOUIS -- Schnuck Markets has established a policy to recognize and compensate pharmacy technicians who have become certified through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), based in Washington.
"It's a first for us in recognizing technicians who have become certified," said Jim Cordes, a pharmacist and director of professional services for the 92-unit chain. The retailer has 74 full-service pharmacies in four Midwest states.
Seven of Schnuck's approximately 200 pharmacy technicians are now certified. The company began recognizing and promoting certified technicians in June. Technicians' salaries have increased from 5% to 10% after certification, Cordes said.
"We are taking a stand and recognizing the ability of these people. We want to make it a long-term relationship. In the next 12 months, I project 15% to 20% of our technician workforce will become certified," he said.
Schnuck's reimburses technicians for the $95 cost of the national certification exam.
Under the direct supervision of a registered pharmacist, certified technicians, said Cordes, are better able to assume further responsibilities in the pharmacy, such as third-party billings, inventory control and prescription processing. And pharmacists are freed up to devote more time to counseling patients about their medications. With the vagaries of managed care programs and insurance plans, pharmacy has become technical and specialized. Pharmacies, both in and out of supermarkets, are increasingly requiring their technicians be certified, said Melissa Murer, pharmacist and executive director at PTCB.
"It's a benchmark that employers are able to use for hiring and promotion decisions," Murer said.
Since July 1995, the PTCB has certified more than 15,800 technicians from all 50 states.
At present, there is no regulated distinction between the duties certified and noncertified pharmacy technicians can perform. "Eventually, state boards will move to further delineate duties between certified and noncertified technicians," Cordes said.
The certification exam is offered three times a year and tests a broad range of pharmacy duties. Certification is valid for two years. The next exam will be held November 2; the application deadline is September 6. The first exam in 1997 is scheduled for March 22. The exam has an 83% pass rate.
"In some instances, employers are helping technicians prepare for the exam by conducting study sessions in the pharmacy," Murer said. After the technicians are certified, pharmacists can assist them by providing continuing education, Murer said. Certification is valid for two years. Twenty contact hours in pharmacy-related topics is required for recertification within the two-year period.