Pharmacy technicians have been employed in hospital settings for many years, but only recently have their role been reviewed for potential expansion. Hospitals across Australia, the UK and many other countries have implemented a ward-based pharmacy technician service (1, 2) but this is yet to become common practice in Ireland. At present, there is only one published study on the development of the clinical role of pharmacy technicians in Ireland (3).
The aim of this study was to determine if the expanded role of the ward-based pharmacy technician role could have a positive impact on medicine management systems within a hospital ward.
This study was carried out over 8 weeks in an Irish hospital. Sixteen wards were studied; four ‘intervention wards’ which have the ward-based technician service in situ and 12 ‘control wards’ which currently do not. Medicine management systems were assessed within these wards with respect to i) the presence of excess non-ward stock on drug trolleys, ii) the presence of expired medication on drug trolleys, and iii) the time taken by nurses to complete drug rounds.
The total cost value of the excess non-stock items found on the intervention wards was €97.51 (the average cost per ward was €24.38). The total cost value of the excess non-stock items found on the control wards was €13,767.76 (the average cost per ward was €1,147.31). Eight expired medications were found on the control wards; none were present on intervention wards. The ward-based technician service reduced the average nursing time to complete drug rounds on a per-patient basis by 28%.
This study has demonstrated that the expanded role of the ward-based pharmacy technician has had a positive impact in several ways; a reduction in the cost of non-stock items present on the ward along with a reduction in expired stock present. Time taken to complete drug rounds was less on the intervention wards compared to control wards, thus freeing up time for nurses to engage in other patient activities. Further studies should consider the full economic costing of the ward-based pharmacy technician service.