Creating A Competency Assessment Program For Pharmacy Staff

By Francis Okeke, PharmD

August 12, 2022

Competency Assessment for Staff in a Pharmacy

Getting optimal pharmaceutical care outcomes for patients is a multi-layered process. A significant factor that affects most of these processes is the competence of the staff handling them. This is why routine competency assessment for the pharmacy staff is recommended.

For Pharmacies, four major competence areas are usually assessed in the overall assessment of pharmaceutical care:

However, in the overall management of the pharmacy, some other vital processes of the pharmacy should also be assessed: compounding, storage, inventory management, and regulatory compliance. Pharmacists, Pharmacy technicians, and other staff in the pharmacy are required to have high levels of competence in these areas.

This article highlights some crucial components in the competency assessment for pharmacy staff.

What Standards Do Pharmacies Follow?

Several processes are involved in the daily operations of the pharmacy, guided by defined standards. Some of these standards are set and documented by regulatory organizations, e.g. FDA, USP, etc. Some examples include USP 795 and 797, which provide requirements for compounding non-sterile and sterile products, respectively. Pharmacy staff involved in compounding processes must be familiar with these standards. USP 800 is another important guideline for pharmacy staff as it details the standards for safely handling hazardous drugs.

Competency Assessment of the Pharmacy Staff

Competency is simply an individual's ability to carry out a task. There are usually different metrics used in this assessment, depending on the nature of the task. There are usually standard processes in a pharmacy and most of the metrics used in assessing performance align with these standards.

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Why is Competency Assessment Important for Pharmacy Staff?

There are several delicate processes in the operations of a pharmacy; compounding, inventory management, dispensing, etc. The staff involved in these processes must meet a standard of competency in defined tasks. Apart from these, some essential functions of competency assessment include:

Competency-based assessments help pharmacy managers identify the strengths of their staff and assign roles based on these strengths. These strengths can be skills, behavior, knowledge, etc., required to perform specific tasks successfully.

Competency assessments also help identify opportunities for improvement. This information allows pharmacy managers to plan capacity development programs for their staff.

Competency assessment also helps Pharmacy managers actively engage and motivate their employees. By identifying staff competency, pharmacy managers can empower them to improve in the areas where they are more competent. This encourages career growth and increases job satisfaction for the pharmacy staff.

Continuous professional education and training are crucial components of improving overall staff competency and service delivery in healthcare delivery. Several standards involved in the pharmacy operations are often reviewed and updated, and pharmacy staff involved in these processes must be trained in line with these updates.

For instance, USP 795 and 797 are standard recommendations for the pharmaceutical compounding of non-sterile and sterile preparations, respectively. Having competent staff handle these processes can go a long way in improving the overall efficiency of the pharmacy.

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Methods of Competency Assessments

  1. Written Tests

Written tests are one of the most popular competency assessment methods. Written tests help test theoretical and technical knowledge of the pharmacy's operations. While this gives the pharmacy manager a good indication of how well the pharmacy staff understands the theoretical components of the pharmacy operations, it does not assess how competent the pharmacy staff is in realistic settings.

In a pharmacy, written tests can be used to assess staff knowledge of standards, processes, etc.

  1. Team Feedback

Getting feedback from teams about the individual performance of other members of the team is another commonly explored approach for competency assessment. While the method is mainly subjective, it is relatively more objective than self-assessment questionnaires.

  1. Self-Assessment Questionnaires

Pharmacy managers can also use self-assessment questionnaires as tools for competency assessment. Pharmacy staff would be required to fill out these questionnaires. This also gives the pharmacy management an idea of the self-perception of the staff. However, it is highly recommended that this method be combined with a more objective method to get an optimal outcome from the competency assessment.

  1. Real Practice Scenarios

Another objective approach to competency assessment for pharmacy staff is placing the staff in real-time scenarios and monitoring how they handle these scenarios. Direct observation is one of the most efficient ways to monitor employee performance as pharmacy managers get to see how staff respond to real-time conditions.

  1. Partners and Clients' Feedback

Feedback from other people who visit the pharmacy might also be used to assess the competency of your staff. This method is also entirely subjective and might not give precise outcomes when used as a standalone.

Choosing a Competency Assessment Method

Finding the best method for competency assessment for a pharmacy involves understanding the dynamics of the pharmacy. It is highly recommended to combine a subjective and objective assessment method in the competency assessment for your team. This combination provides a holistic view of staff competence across several processes.

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  1. ACCP Clinical Pharmacist Competencies
  2. Gillani SW, Sam KG, Gebreigziabher FB, Al-Salloum J, Assadi RA, Gulam SM. Assessment Methods and Competency Mapping in Pharmacy Education: Understanding of Components and Quality Parameters. J Res Pharm Pract. 2021 Aug 3;10(2):102-105. DOI: 10.4103/jrpp.JRPP_21_29. PMID: 34527616; PMCID: PMC8420934.
  3. Stojkov, Svetlana & Ivana, Tadic & Crnjanski, Tatjana & Krajnovic, Dusanka & Ian, Bates. (2014). Evaluation of Competencies at the Community Pharmacy Settings. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and Research. 48. 10.5530/ijper.48.4.4. 
  4. Ways To Assess Employee Skills And Competencies
Francis Okeke, PharmD

Francis Okeke is a clinical pharmacist. He is adept at providing clinical and technical information to nurses, patients, and caregivers. He is well equipped with the best approaches and evidence-based practices of administering drugs and therapeutic procedures to patients. He obtained his first degrees at East Tennessee State University and Clemson University and studied further to obtain his Masters of Public Health at the Royal Institute of Health, Nigeria.