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How URMC's career ladder boosts entry-level staff engagement

March 20, 2018

    For health systems, the demand to fill entry-level positions is high, as these roles are essential to meeting growing health care needs. However, recruiting and retaining skilled entry-level staff is a perennial challenge.

    Pharmacy leaders in particular are increasingly under pressure to maintain engagement among their pharmacy technician workforce. These individuals play a critical role in supporting pharmacy operations in a variety of settings, so vacancies and turnover in these positions can have a major impact on pharmacy productivity. And the problem is projected to get worse in coming years: While demand for pharmacy technician roles is expected to grow nearly 10% between 2014 and 2024, turnover for these positions is roughly 14%.

    Expanding scope of responsibility to drive engagement and advancement opportunities

    In an effort to better engage staff and meet the growing demands placed on pharmacy, many organizations are expanding pharmacy technicians' scope of responsibility. Beyond having pharmacy technicians enter patient and prescription data, fill and label prescription bottles, and handle other administrative tasks, many are finding ways to use the skills of their technicians to improve patient satisfaction and drive the success of new initiatives. To give just a few examples, we're heard of pharmacy technicians:

    • Taking medication histories in the ED and at admission (at notably higher quality than the status quo);
    • Assisting with drug purchasing and with prior authorizations;
    • Managing med-to-bed program enrollment, preparation, delivery, and payment collection;
    • Handling 340B assurance;
    • Supporting pharmacists in the clinic setting by managing patient identification, outreach, and enrollment;
    • Focusing on pharmacy IT responsibilities; and
    • Compounding medications and managing inventory.

    Sometimes individuals are hand-selected for these roles; other times organizations design formalized career ladders to standardize growth and advancement opportunities. We've previously touted the benefits of career ladders, but we especially like the 5-level pharmacy technician career ladder used by the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), a five-hospital system in Rochester, New York.

    URMC's career ladder starts at the time of the technician's employment and continues throughout their tenure, with new responsibilities added at each level. Attaining a new band typically comes with a 2% to 5% increase in pay. The levels are as follows:

    URMC has seen improved engagement and retention among their pharmacy technician workforce after implementing this career ladder. Their turnover rate is well below the national average and their pharmacy technicians report feeling supported and well-positioned to advance in their careers.

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