Pharmacy Technician Schools in Canada

This is an exciting time of change for Canada’s pharmacy technicians. The National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities, or NAPRA, has stated that a new age in healthcare requires an expansion of the scope of duty of both pharmacist and pharmacy technician. Initiatives have been underway for some time to shift some pharmacy duties away from pharmacists and put them under the scope of new, highly trained technicians. The new technicians will still have a role in customer service, stocking, and preparing medications. Members of the new profession will have more responsibility, though, including the authority to receive telephone prescriptions and to do the final check to make sure that a prescription is accurate before handing it over.

Ontario was the first providence to regulate pharmacy technicians. British Columbia and Alberta both began the transition soon after. Beginning in September 2010, a qualifying exam has been scheduled in providences around the nation.

The process is voluntary. Pharmacy personnel who don’t go through the process can still work in a pharmacy, and there will still be a demand for the duties they perform and have long performed. In some places, though, they will no longer be known as pharmacy technicians, but as pharmacy assistants, or some other title that designates lesser authority. Training programs that prepare students for the traditional job duties, or that have not yet completed the accreditation process, may be renamed pharmacy assistant programs.

Pharmacy Technician Regulation in Canada

The Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada sets the standards for registered pharmacy technicians. The first step is to enroll in a program that has been accredited by CCAPP, or the Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs. The next step is Structured Practical Training. An approved educational program and practical training will help prospective technicians meet the standards set by NAPRA. Competencies include receiving and preparing prescriptions, complying with legal regulations, collaborating with other members of a health care team, and maintaining quality control standards.

Completion of these steps allows technicians to sit for exams through the Pharmacy Technician Qualifying Board, which was piloted in Alberta and Ontario in 2010. The Pharmacy Technician Qualifying Exam is a rigorous two part assessment. The first, the MCQ, is a multiple choice exam consisting of 170 questions. The second part, the OSPE, consists of stations that technicians must complete. In some stations, candidates write their responses. In others, they interact with people in situations designed to simulate situations that could happen at work. Technicians must recognize, for instance, when something is wrong with a prescription and when there is reason to refer a customer to a pharmacist for counseling. It is within the scope of the pharmacist, not the technician, to evaluate the appropriateness of a therapy. An important part of the job is distinguishing between duties that are permitted and those that are not. Before registration, an exam of jurisprudence, or law and ethics, is also required.

The process is a little different for experienced workers. Pharmacy technicians with at least 2,000 hours of recent experience may take a preliminary evaluating examination and then take the qualifying examination. Some provinces have additional requirements. Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario require a bridging program, or series of courses, for technicians in transition. The national board maintains links to the boards of each providence and recommends that candidates check them for additional requirements.

Pharmacy Technician Salary and Job Outlook in Canada

Pharmacist technicians are in demand. According to a survey by Payscale, pharmacy technicians in Canada have a range of salaries between about CAN$10.00 and CAN$17.00 an hour. There may be some regional variance. The highest range was reported for Alberta ($13.88 to $16.74). Nova Scotia had the lowest reported wages, ranging from $10.12 to $12.41.

Actual salaries depend on experience and education and may in fact range higher for technicians who have met the new standards. Centennial College, which piloted a bridging program for technicians in transition, has released salary information. Their graduates are starting at about $34,500 a year; this translates to more than $17.00 a hour. A recent job posting from Save-on-Food in British Columbia asked for a pharmacy technician who had graduated from an accredited program or had two years prior experience. The starting salary: CAN $17.75. Status as a registered technician brings with it a wider scope of duty. One can expect it also to translate into higher pay!

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