What is Advocacy? Why is it Important?

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My name is Diane Reeder and I am the new PTSA Advocacy Director.  I believe there is an urgent need to advocate on behalf of pharmacy technicians in Alberta.  This work was begun over this past year.  We have assembled a group of pharmacy technicians to continue this work over this next year.  The following people are members of the Committee:  Dana Lyons, Don Ridley, Jennifer Bean, Jody Read, Laura Miskimins, Melanie Law, Tana Yoon, and Teresa Hennessey.

Advocacy is an activity undertaken by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic and social systems and institutions. [1]  It includes activities designed to support the goals, vision and mission of an organization, and attempts to persuade others of the importance of their cause.  Advocacy can be implemented on a local, regional, or national level.

In the pharmacy community, pharmacy technicians are not a new phenomenon – we have been around for decades.  But, as a regulated pharmacy technician – a regulated health professional – we are accountable in a way we have never had to be in the past.  We are accountable to our patients, clients, customers and to the organization that employs us.  We are also accountable to ourselves, and to our profession as a whole through our regulatory college.

Where advocacy must come into play is to raise awareness within the pharmacy community of the expanded role that a pharmacy technician has the skills and competence to perform.  According to the Health Professions Act[2], pharmacy technicians promote safe and effective drug distribution and, in relation to that, do one or more of the following under the direction* of a pharmacist:

(a) receive, gather, enter and store prescription and patient information,

(b) store and repackage products,

(c) participate in the management of systems for drug distribution and inventory control,

(d) participate in the research, development, implementation and evaluation of quality assurance and risk management policies, procedures and activities,

(e) provide restricted activities authorized by the regulations,

(f) instruct patients about the use of health aids and devices,

and

(g) teach the practice of pharmacy technicians.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have distinct roles in the pharmacy.  The technician is no longer merely an extra pair of hands – to do the bidding of a pharmacist.  Technicians have the qualifications to independently perform tasks for which they have been educated to perform – gathering patient information, entering that information into the pharmacy database; monitoring and maintaining inventory levels; packaging and repackaging medications, to name just a few.  Not only do we have the training, the competence and the skills to perform these duties, we have a responsibility to do so.  Only by taking over these tasks will the pharmacist be freed up to provide clinical patient services.  Pharmacy technicians play a key role in helping to improve health outcomes in our patients.

Have you spoken to your manager or your co-workers about some of the duties that you could perform?  We are not looking for preferential treatment; we are simply proposing that technicians are capable and willing to perform a larger role within the pharmacy community.  Each one of us can speak up, to advocate, to get the message out to our employers, and even the public.  Watch for practical ways that you can reach out to your patients in future articles.

As PTSA works with their local partners – RxA, ACP, CSHP-AB, as well as their national partners to effect change in how pharmacy technicians are perceived, we need each and every one of you to look for ways to influence those around you in your workplace.

We encourage you to take action today to speak up for yourself and your fellow pharmacy technicians!  One way that you can do that is to contact the Alberta College of Pharmacists to let them know how you feel about the name of the College.  If you are curious about how you can do that, please feel free to reach out to me for more information:  advocacy.director@PTSA.ca

In our next article, we will talk more about advocacy, why it is needed and delve into what the word “direction” means and implies.

*Direction – There are specific parameters within the HPA around “providing direction”.   Further information will follow in a later article about what the provision of direction entails.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advocacy – accessed February 9, 2017, 8:21 pm

[2] Health Professions Act, Revised Statutes of Alberta 2000, Chapter H-7, Current as of January 1, 2017 – accessed February 9, 2017, 8:41 pm  http://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/acts/h07.pdf

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