Annual Report 2020 – Embracing our Altered Reality

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This past year we experienced an “Altered Reality” in light of the world-wide pandemic and resulting social and professional changes. PTSA, as well as our members, faced new challenges and new opportunities – and we adapted to both in stride. Our organization continues to evolve how we’re working to meet our goals. Despite this past year’s challenges, we’ve had a number of accomplishments in alignment with our Strategic Plan. We continue to Advocate, Educate and Inspire! This Annual Report post will provide you with a look back on the year and what we have to look forward to in the coming months.

Providing Continuing Education

Once a pandemic was declared, PTSA halted planning for in-person education events. Planning for the 30th Annual Alberta Pharmacy Technician Conference that was to be held in Calgary was postponed with a new date planned for September 10 & 11, 2021. Like many other organizations considering virtual options for providing services, PTSA explored the option of a virtual conference. Over the course of two days in September, and through a modified program in an online environment, 270 pharmacy technicians from across Canada attended presentations  and participated in discussions virtually that informed, motivated and offered tools to transform the way we practice as pharmacy technicians. Read more about the success of the PTSA 2020 Virtual Conference. Planning is about to get underway for the 2021 conference. The PTSA board has been working on a revised committee structure. More information will be available soon.

In addition to the virtual conference the online self-study course Using Knowledge and Research Application in Practice was renewed for another year of accreditation (expires June 2021). The course Introduction to the Canadian HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Program (PrEP) was also introduced. A list of all available courses is available here: https://ptsa.ca/education/courses/

The second educational series video was also introduced this past year. The video demonstrates the Non-Sterile Compounding of a Topical Powder and has the cross-functional purposes of sharing scope of practice information with pharmacy technicians and informing the public about the pharmacy technician’s role.

Advocacy Efforts

Initiatives to influence pharmacy issues remained a priority for PTSA this past year. The need to clarify the pharmacy technician’s scope of practice and the role of pharmacy assistants has been identified by the membership as an important issue. In addition to continuing the initiative of contacting employers about job posts that conflate the role of pharmacy assistants with pharmacy technicians, PTSA launched the Role Clarification of Non-Regulated Pharmacy Employees document. The document is a culmination of the advocacy committee’s vision for an ideal practice setting and feedback received from members and stakeholders including the Alberta College of Pharmacy (ACP), Alberta Pharmacists Association (RxA) and Canadian Society of Pharmacists – Alberta chapter (CSHP-AB).  PTSA has taken the opportunity to advocate for changes in relation to role clarification and appropriate utilization of pharmacy assistants on a number of other occasions. The most recent being our response to ACP’s consultation on standards amendments related to pharmacy services for animals. You can read the response letter here: PTSA Response to ACP Consultation Pharmacy Services for Animals

There have been numerous consultation opportunities this past year to advocate for pharmacy technicians and our role in healthcare. In May, when ACP opened consultation on proposed amendments to bylaws, PTSA took the opportunity to support ACP’s efforts to improve responsiveness in emergent situations but expressed concern that the proposed bylaw amendment compromised the principle of self-regulation. We encouraged all Alberta pharmacy technicians to do the same. We’ve seen success with this type of advocacy campaign in the past and once again saw favorable results. PTSA also receive consultation notices from Alberta Government and provided feedback this past year on several related to other health professions and overarching proposals to amend the Health Profession’s Act. With more changes related to how health professions are governed expected to come in 2021, PTSA is prepared to continue advocating for pharmacy technicians and we hope all Alberta pharmacy technicians join us in these efforts. Our voice is stronger when we are united!

PTSA created a new position paper this past year to continue to advocate for expansion of the pharmacy technicians scope of practice. Current regulations and policies provide a barrier to realizing the potential of pharmacy technician practice on the provision of quality pharmacy services. Changes to the Pharmacy Technician Practice Framework are needed to enable opportunities for pharmacy technicians to realize our practice potential. PTSA has shared this position statement with the ACP and requested that the changes noted within it be considered by Council. The position paper identifies three key areas for which changes are needed. One of the needed changes is to grant authorization for pharmacy technicians to administer drugs and vaccines by injection.

Work to develop a framework that will enable the injection of drugs and vaccines by pharmacy technicians increased this past year. One of the ways PTSA hopes to achieve this goal is by having injection training opportunities available to Alberta pharmacy technicians. In the United States, more and more pharmacy technicians were being trained and authorized to inject immunizations. In March 2020, several members of the PTSA Advocacy Committee were headed to Maryland to complete a US-based training program and bring their knowledge back to Alberta pharmacy technicians. Those plans were delayed as a result of pandemic related travel and large gathering restrictions. PTSA continues to work on ways to move closer towards achieving this goal and has been investigating other opportunities with Canadian education providers.

Other areas PTSA has and continues to advocate for pharmacy technicians is in relation to issues arising as a result of the pandemic. PTSA successfully advocated for Changes to the Continuing Competence Program for 2020 and continues to work towards having the pharmacy technician’s role in relation to asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in community pharmacies clarified.

Celebrating and Promoting Our Profession

We still found time to recognize the valuable roles of pharmacy technicians this past year. Pharmacy technicians stepped up and adapted – demonstrating how indispensable we truly are. From increasing measures to prevent disease transmission to finding innovative ways to ensure patients continued to have access to their medications, pharmacy technicians worked tirelessly alongside other healthcare professionals to provide care. A video was created to highlight some of the work being done by pharmacy technicians during COVID-19.

Since the Minister of Health proclaimed October 18, 2018 as Pharmacy Technician Day, PTSA and Alberta pharmacy technicians have joined others from across the globe in celebrating the third Tuesday of October as #RxTechDay. Last year we took a look back at the history of pharmacy technicians and how our profession and Society came to be with Tiana’s Cunningham’s Pride in the Profession online presentation and the RxTechDay 2019 Scavenger Hunt.

Only a few months later, PTSA was able to promote the pharmacy team: pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants during Pharmacy Awareness Month (PAM). We were pleased to participate in another pin campaign with the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists – Alberta Chapter to continue the PAM pin tradition.

PTSA continues to recognize the contributions to our profession by recognizing one member each year to receive the Professionalism Award. The 2019 winner of the award was Don Ridley. Read more about Past PTSA Professionalism Award Winners.

Engaging the Membership

As of this post, 625 pharmacy technicians, assistants, students and supporters of our profession are members of PTSA. In addition to sharing information through the PTSA Blog and regular social feeds, Alberta pharmacy technicians were invited to join a Facebook group to create a community of practice for addressing COVID-19 issues.

During the Virtual Conference Townhall session new ideas began to emerge to guide pharmacy technicians to engage in the work to promote our profession. PTSA hopes to continue to build on the great discussion and ideas shared over the upcoming year. Members unable to attend the session can view the recording for the Townhall as well as all conference presentations in the Members Only section of the website.

Information about the operational state of the organization was discussed at the virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM), September 13, 2020. Members can access the AGM materials including minutes from last year as well as financial statements here.

What strategy and work accomplished this past year is most important to you? Are there things you’d like to see PTSA work on that have not already been identified? Share your thoughts in the comments below or contact us at info@ptsa.ca