Magazine article Drug Topics

Profession Confronts Idea of Pharmacist Assistant

Magazine article Drug Topics

Profession Confronts Idea of Pharmacist Assistant

Article excerpt

Reaction has been mixed to a trial balloon floated by the chain drugstore industry for creation of another class of pharmacy staffer-namely, the pharmacist assistant (Ph.A.).

State pharmacy association reviews seem to be neutral or downright hostile to adding another employee situated between the pharmacist and the technician. The Ph.A. would manage the prescription preparation process under the general supervision of the pharmacist, who could then concentrate on direct patient care.

The Ph.A. trial balloon exploded when it hit the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, which questions the motives of the chain industry. "It's a way to get cheap pharmacy labor," said executive director Craig Burridge. "We're concerned about the lack of direct supervision by a pharmacist. Does that mean one pharmacist could supervise 15 outlets? It's dangerous to the profession and to the public. This is something we'll fight tooth and nail."

At the same time, the Massachusetts pharmacy board has a task force exploring the concept. Board president Harold Sparr hopes its work will be wrapped up by late January. If the board proceeds, the Ph.A. would cover the pharmacy when the pharmacist is on break, take new prescriptions over the phone, and dispense Rxs in the R.Ph.'s absence, he said. The pharmacist would then have to contact patients who wished to be counseled. Health-system Ph.A.s would check the work of technicians.

"There's some opposition to the pharmacist assistant from community pharmacists," said Sparr. "The old question is whether it would supplant pharmacists, but there shouldn't be any fear. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners allow physicians to do more of what they're trained to do. We've got to change the mind-set. We want pharmacists to do pharmaceutical care to improve patient outcomes. Pharmacists have to learn how to use their cognitive skills."

The Ph.A. concept was iaia out in August at the annual National Association of Chain Drug Stores pharmacy meeting. The scenario proposed that the Ph.A. would be required to earn a two-year ass date degree, complete 1,000 hours o pharmacy experiential training, and pass a national competency exam/ The Ph.A. would then be licensed oil,, registered by the state pharmacy board. On the job, the Ph.A. would assume administrative duties under the general supervision of the pharmacist.

The idea of Ph.A.s is "just a model we've developed for people to consider," said Kurt Proctor, NACDS senior vp. …

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