By Matthew Liedke
An initiative to increase laws and certification of pharmacy technicians has recently graded all 50 states on their training and requirements and North Dakota received a perfect score.
The grading process was started by the Emily Jerry Foundation, an organization named after a young girl from Ohio who died while receiving cancer treatment.
According to the foundation’s website, Emily Jerry was diagnosed with a yolk sac tumor when she was just a year and a half old. Medical personnel said the cancer was curable and with chemotherapy and surgeries, the outcome should be successful.
While the tumor had disappeared, Emily Jerry was still scheduled for a final treatment to ensure there were no remaining traces of cancer in her body. At the hospital, a pharmacy technician decided not to use a standard prepared bag of sodium chloride with less than 1 percent of sodium chloride solution and instead filled a bag with a concentrated solution of 23.4 percent.
The solution in the bag resulted in Emily Jerry’s death. Chris Jerry, Emily’s father, soon learned that at the time of Emily’s death, Ohio didn’t register technicians and didn’t have any sort of training or licensing requirements, either.
Since then, Chris Jerry and his family have worked to change the trend around the country and ask for better pharmacy technician requirements. They succeeded in the state of Ohio, where voters passed legislation, referred to as Emily’s Law, in 2009. The law requires pharmacy technicians to be at least 18 years old or older, possess a high school diploma and pass a competency exam approved by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy.
The state with the strongest laws and what has become an example for the foundation, though, is North Dakota.
“We hope to highlight states such as North Dakota, which received a sparkling perfect score based on our grading criteria,” said the foundation’s website. “States like North Dakota, that are doing a tremendous job of protecting their patients through strict controls and educational requirements for pharmacy technicians, will serve as a model moving forward for states with failing grades and most importantly, for the six states that have zero regulations regarding pharmacy technicians.”
Barb Lacher, an assistant professor at North Dakota State College of Science, explained how the rating reflects on the Wahpeton institution.
“One hundred percent, we’re proud of that. We need to celebrate the success that North Dakota has in pharmacy,” Lacher said. “And while we celebrate the pharmacists who go to North Dakota State University, we still need to celebrate the technicians here, too.
“We at NDSCS have one of the only accredited programs in the state. Almost all the time we are training about 140 technicians in the state,” Lacher continued. “So I think it (the Emily Jerry Foundation rating) affects the college very positively. We’re not having many critical errors and we’re seeing our students all pass the final exam.”
In the future, that trend should reach around the country, too.
“We are slowly reaching that point,” Lacher said. “We are getting close to having a national standard.”
Lacher credited the strong score to the state’s higher education programs. The North Dakota Legislature passed a law in 1995 that ensured pharmacists had to complete an accredited program and be nationally certified.
Department: Pharmacy Technician
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