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Pharmacy Technician Contract with No Compete Clause

Pharmacy Technician CrazyI have to share a new experience I had today at the pharmacy. For those that are new to the site, I am a pharmacy director at a 400 bed hospital. We recently hired a pharmacy technician at our inpatient pharmacy. I received a call from her previous boss today. This boss is calling to let me know that my new pharmacy technician signed a no compete clause that said she would not work for a competing compounding pharmacy.

So far so good right. I inquire as to the pharmacy she worked at . . . it is a vet pharmacy. Not vet as in war veterans, but vet as in animals. My pharmacy takes care of humans, as in a regular hospital for HUMANS. I explain this to the lady, and she said that it does not matter, we compound drugs, so it is part of the contract. I ask her what her intentions are and her expectations of me. She says that I need to fire the pharmacy technician.

This is one of those WTH moments (What The Heck, you can substitute other words if you must, I’ll try to keep it PG). I check with my human resources department, and this is new for them too. We think the whole compete clause is unwarranted for this situation and have decided to do nothing about it. In fact, if there even is this compete clause in place, it is between the pharmacy technician and the previous employer (the vet pharmacy). For the record, compete clauses are for like businesses and more particularly used to tell someone they cannot start their own similar business. My wife is also a pharmacist and works for a long-term care pharmacy. They were asked to sign no compete clauses stating that they would not start their own long-term care pharmacy within two years after employment. this makes sense, a pharmacist builds relationships with a nursing home or many homes and could potentially steal the homes and start their own pharmacy. I do not see how this applies to an animal vet pharmacy in relation to a human hospital pharmacy, it is just nutty.

I have a point here. If you are entering employment with a pharmacy (or anywhere for that matter). Pay attention to these types of agreements. Even invalid ones like this one can cause problems. I would counsel people to stay away from this lady and her pharmacy, something isn’t right. So, make sure you read the stuff you sign when you obtain a job. It could really hinder your chances for future employment at other pharmacies. Fortunately, this is the first time I have heard of this for a pharmacy technician and my guess is that it is not common at all. I still wanted to share the story with you and just in case, provide you with some information in the event you run into a similar situation. Aloha -Rob

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If you are considering Career Step’s Pharmacy Technician program, do it before the end of March.

340B Site - Pharmacy Technician Training
I just received an email yesterday from Career Step that they are raising tuition in April. They did not say by how much, when they do I will add it to the Career Step page. In addition, March has up to 10% off tuition (for up front payment, or 5% off if you are doing the payment plan). Therefore, if you are thinking about doing this program, I would consider signing up now in order to save some money. Here is the direct link to the program: Career Step.

As for me, my hospital pharmacy just had our every three year Joint Commission survey. This survey has a lot of pharmacy involvement, and I need a lot of help from my pharmacy technicians in making sure our medication storage and medication management is compliant with regulations. If you work or are externing in a hospital, this is where monthly inspections of all areas where medications are stored is so very important. We look for expired medications, multi-dose vials that are labeled with beyond use dates, look-alike/sound-alike medications labeled and stored separately, and various other critical medication storage requirements. Every hospital should have a medication unit inspection list, if your does not have one, send me an email (use contact tab above) and I will send you an example.

I also just got back from a 340B conference. 340B is a program that certain hospitals and clinics qualify for based on their percentage of Medicaid patients (it is a little bit more complicated than that, but that is pretty close). If you qualify, you are allowed to buy certain outpatient drugs at a discount, so you can offset the costs of the lower paying patients, you should also increase and expand charity care services. There is a ton of regulation around it, and starting to become a very hot topic. My database pharmacy technician and my pharmacy technician buyer are the two staff I have trained on 340B. For more information on 340B, go to 340BProgram.org. Definitely a great area to consider learning to enhance your resume for hospital work. The picture above is from the conference at the Del Coronado on Coronado Island in San Diego.

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A great question I received via email that is worth sharing!


Hi Rob,

I just wanted to take a minute to say thanks for writing this site/blog. I was browsing a local university course listing and saw the pharm tech course and then did some digging and found your site. There’s SO much info and details, I feel so overwhelmed and have a TON of questions. I value sites like yours because its basically, what you see is what you get.

Quick Background:
I’m currently in the IT field and although making decent money, I’m looking to switch careers.. Money isn’t everything, but as with most people, I need to see if this career change will benefit me emotionally as well as financially before making this commitment, (its quite terrifying actually). Doing a search on salary, I see it was around 27k. Without knowing exactly what you make, but with your experience, is it achievable to double that amount?

Are you open to questions? If I decided that perhaps I wanted to pursue a career as a pharmacist, what additional education would I need?

Rob, Thank you again. I know you must get hundreds of emails so I appreciate the time.

-T


First, thank you T for the great positive feedback. It is emails and comments like this that keep me going. Here is my reply:

Great question. The pharmacy profession needs more pharmacy technicians and pharmacists who have an IT background. We are constantly adding more and more automation and IT to our processes for running a pharmacy.

For you, if you do decide to go into pharmacy, do your best to get a job in the biggest health-system in your area (not-for-profit if you can). That is what I work in, a 22 hospital not-for profit health system. The reason is that they will most likely have pharmacy staff in pharmacy/IT positions. In all of our large hospital (more than 250 beds), we have automation and database technicians. For my health system, they are all level III techs (pay range is $35K to $50K). In addition, we have corporate and IT staffed pharmacy techs who make even more (they are hitting your target to $54K plus). On the flip side, you will need to put in some time to gain the experience and timing to land one of these higher level jobs. I can tell you from years of experience, staff with both skill sets are hard to come by so we have to grow our own.

In addition, if you can program, there are an infinite amount of opportunities to create new products and services for pharmacies. If you decide to go to pharmacy school, you can complete residencies after pharmacy school that are called “Informatics Residencies,: where you can learn from fellow IT/pharmacy types on how to leverage both skill sets.

For pharmacy school, it is quite a bit of college level classes. If you are planning a pharmacy tech program, those credits do not transfer. This is a serious commitment. You will need to complete all of your bachelors degree requirements (generals), and typically the following: 2 semesters of – General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Calculus, Physics, and 1 semester of- Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Technical Writing, Microbiology. This may differ by university, so check out a University you are interested in and see if they have a pharmacy school. They will typically list their prerequisites.

Best of Luck, Rob

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Welcome to 2012 and the new year!!!

I hope the holidays have been good to you and you are already back to work, school, or being productive somewhere in your pharmacy technician training. In this article, we will cover updates to Pharmacy Technician HQ and a recent question asked by email.

As for me, I have been busy at work. We have a ton of projects going on that I find pretty fun. We are rolling out a new temperature monitoring system (TempTrak if you are curious, a pretty cool product for wireless refrigerator monitoring), POMS (a pharmacy orders management system), and reconstruction of about one third of our pharmacy (okay, this is not fun, and I am sure some of my technicians can’t wait to get our window and dispensing drawer back in use). A couple buddies of mine (also pharmacists) are also looking at opening an outpatient pharmacy. I do plan on staying on at my hospital as the director of pharmacy for at least 5 to 7 years, but I am excited about being a part of a pharmacy business outside of my company I currently work for. This will also lead to more opportunity to get a pharmacy technician course created down the road. Okay enough about my happenings.

I receive a fair amount of questions about moving states. These are often sent by email and are therefore not on any of the comments on the site. I add some of the email questions, but only if they have widespread applicability. A general rule of thumb when obtaining your pharmacy technician registration or license in one state is to think about the possibilities of you moving to a different state. If you are or think you are, research that state as well. You do not want to be caught in a situation where you are working as a pharmacy technician in one state, but cannot become one in a state you move to. One thing to look at is reciprocity, or one state accepting your registration in one state as proof that you have experience enough to not require formal education. Some states will accept work experience if you have worked a predefined amount of hours (I often see 2000 hours as the requirement). In many states national certification is required regardless, so just get it.

To end, it is a new year. If you have been on the fence about a career change or what you want to do with your life. The worst possible decision is no decision at all. Making a choice and completing whatever it takes to reach your goal is what is important. If your goal is a college degree, then enroll in college and do it. If your goal is to work in a pharmacy, then do whatever your state requires and make it happen. Even if you change your mind later, the experience you gain is worth it, and very few things are so permanent that you cannot change course later. If you have read all the articles on this site, you will remember an article titled “GOYA.” It is time to GOYA! Best of luck in all your endeavors in 2012. -Rob

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One thing you should not do at work!

What I am about to share is not a new concept. I have mentioned it before when I discuss things you should and should not do when externing (you can go back and read that article here). So what is it . . . constantly being on your smart phone (or cell phone). Picture yourself as a patient in a hospital, or visiting a family member in a hospital. What message do you get when you see hospital employees walking around texting and talking on their cell phones? It looks very unprofessional and as if you have so many better things to be doing than be at work. In today’s competitive healthcare environment, we cannot afford to have our staff give any perceptions of lack of caring or ambivalence to patient care. We need to walk the halls looking for opportunities to help and greet our patients and families. We need to be about work when at work. You have the rest of your day and your lunch break to text and talk to friends and family. If you have an emergency that cannot wait, then let your supervisor know and take a 10 or 15 minute break to deal with it.

From my perspective, this is a total deal breaker for someone trying to get a job, and something that will hurt staff who are trying to get a better job. In fact, it will even lead to disciplinary action and possible loss of a job. So think about it, if it were your company, how would you want your staff to act? If you were the patient, what would give you more assurance that the staff care about what they do?

I share these ideas with you so that you can be a better technician, get the job you want, and be an effective member of a team. I believe pharmacy can be very rewarding, I felt this way as a tech for over 8 years. Take your career/job seriously, and it will be rewarding for you too.

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Yahoo recently released two articles that has a career as a Pharmacy Technician listed in the top list

The first article talks about healthcare being the hottest field right now. In fact, it is one of the few areas adding jobs right now. The list has pharmacy technician sitting at number three, which isn’t too shabby. Here is a link to that article: “What’s the Hottest Career Field? Health Care.”

The second article discusses how to switch careers in less than one year. This article is not just about healthcare jobs, rather the top jobs you can obtain for less than a year of training. The author lists 8 different jobs and pharmacy technician is one of them. Pretty cool stuff. Here is a link to this article: “One Year Career Plans.”

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Epocrates Rx is the best free App for a pharmacy technician

There are many apps out there that you can get for free or for a couple of dollars. One of the first ones to come out was Epocrates. I remember back in the day (about 12 years ago), pharmacy staff were running around with these clunky Palm Pilots (I have owned about 3 or 4 different ones). Epocrates was one of the first ones to come out with a free version, and of course a more advanced version for a price. I have to tell you, I think the free version is pretty darn good (for a free product). I have a Blackberry and an iPod Touch (my company allowed iPhones after I got my last Blackberry, and now I am stuck with it until my next contract period . . . 6 months). I know you will not cry for me, and I can appreciate that. What does the free app have: General generic and brand drug information and nice summaries of mechanism of action and basic need to know about the medication. It also has a nice pill identifier, drug interactions checker, and assortment of medical calculators. I also picked this because it is for all mobile devices. Go to epocrates.com to see for your self.

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Pennsylvania will likely have new law pass in 2012 to begin pharmacy technician registration

There are 23 states left that do not require training or PTCB to become registered or licensed in the state (you can see you state specifics on the State Info page). Four of these states do recognize national certification and increase the pharmacist to tech ratio for these techs. This leaves 19 states that have no PTCB or formal education requirement. Six states do nothing at all (ie, no registration, licensing, approval).

It appears that Pennsylvania state Representative Anthony DeLuca will most likely get the state pharmacy practice act amended to require formal training from a state board approved program and national certification. The Bill is House Bill 320. If passed, the bill allows for a 2-year grace period to let current pharmacy technicians obtain their national certification and show that they have worked at least 2000 hours in the last 3 years (prior to the bill becoming a law). The bill also creates a “pharmacy technician trainee” registration that can be issued to people enrolled in an approved pharmacy technician program. This trainee registration will only be good for a year and may only be issued once (there is a one-time 6-month extension available).

What this means for you: If you live in Pennsylvania, you will most likely not be able to get 2000 hours in prior to the bill being enacted, so go find a pharmacy technician program in your state and ask them if they know about the bill. Most programs in the state will probably get the approval from the board of pharmacy. You could also start working on your national PTCB certification, since you will need it anyway. This will overtime reduce the supply of technicians in your state, and will likely result in increased pay. For those in other states, well if you are one of the 18 states left, your time is probably short to have little to no requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician. I would get in now, get your national certification, and get your hours in so you can be grandfathered in when your time comes. For most of us, we are already there.

So, what states are left with no registration: Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The states with no training or national certification requirements but do register their technicians: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia*, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota*, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina*, Ohio (“approves” technicians and requires an exam), Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee*, and Vermont.
(*If a tech is nationally certified, the pharmacist to tech ratio is increased)

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Tech-Check-Tech is Back in the press for Some Pharmacy Technicians

Well, at least in the pharmacy world press, I am not sure if most citizens care too much. Earlier this year, California passed legislation that would allow for tech-check-tech in hospital settings (so not retail) and for those who undergo more pharmacy technician training. There a re now a handful of states that allow for tech-check-tech.

My apologies, you may be wondering what tech-check-tech is. It is when it is legal for one pharmacy technician to check another pharmacy technician’s work as the final check without the need for a pharmacist unless the checking pharmacy technician feels that he or she needs a pharmacist consult. The reason hospitals are more often considered versus retail pharmacies is because in hospitals there are additional lines of defense, namely the nurse. Most hospitals are also using bedside barcoding to ensure that the correct medication is being dispensed based on the medication barcode. In fact, my health system hospitals are not only doing bedside barcoding, we are implementing pharmacy barcoding for accuracy.

What does this mean for you? It means their will be more potential for job growth (more jobs), more opportunity for higher paying jobs (those who meet tech-check-tech will get paid more), and more opportunities for advancement (more levels in the pharmacy technician ranks provide for career development).

I do not practice in California, so currently my state does not have tech-check-tech. It is in discussion, and if my state present legislation for 2012 it will be very similar to California in that it will be for settings where barcoding technology is in place, for hospital settings (although I could see long-term care as well), and of course more advance pharmacy technician training.

It is exciting to think about this again. When I was in the military (I did a stint in the Navy . . . I will try not to break out in song), we had tech-check-tech available for senior level pharmacy technicians and I thought it was pretty dang cool. I also think about the opportunity this will create for hospital based pharmacists to focus on clinical pharmacy tasks related to appropriate medication selection for patients and monitoring adverse effects, while our pharmacy technician core focus on getting the right drug up to the patient.

For those wondering if this is safer or not, a few studies were published many years ago that looked at checking accuracy of pharmacy technicians versus pharmacists. Guess who was more accurate? If you guessed technicians, then you are right. The reason this may be so is the fact that a pharmacist in central is often trying to do various things, they are not always focused on the task at hand and are often distracted. If you have a technician who can focus more and is looking for specific things, then they are more likely to catch the error.

In any case, the future for pharmacy technicians is looking even brighter. For those looking at pharmacy technician as a career, we may soon see levels of pharmacy technicians on a regular basis (we already have levels in my health-system).

On a last funny note. I happen to notice punctuation errors (and yes I make them too, so you should call me on it. Especially since I often write and only re-read once for time efficiency), and my wife found a quote that I think is supper funny:

Let’s eat Grandpa

Let’s eat, Grandpa

Punctuation! It could save a life.

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Happy Pharmacy Technician’s Day


October 25th is Pharmacy Technician’s Day. I just want to say thank you to all the pharmacy technicians out their for all the work you do to make sure our patients are getting the medications they need. Love ya! My wife made some homemade oreos and peanut butter fudge for my crew, I hope your boss did something for you, because you deserve it.

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