Most pharmacy technicians are not first responders; however, we can be terrific first receivers. So, what is a first receiver? Hospital pharmacy technician first receivers assist in set up, decontamination and other non-clinical tasks during a mass exposure or event. Community pharmacy technicians help customers obtain medications and keep refrigerated drugs viable during power outages.
Why are pharmacy technicians well suited for supportive roles in disaster situations? They have knowledge of hazardous drug handling and decontamination. They are also familiar with personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements and have experience wearing PPE for several hours. Having PPE exposure makes it easier to tolerate the full coverage of a Class C PPE suit. Great pharmacy technicians are also quick thinkers and seasoned at communicating with the public, health care providers and insurance companies.
The institution I work for has a Hospital Emergency Response Team (HERT) that is trained to protect the facility and aid the entire community. Being part of the HERT requires basic Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training, routine practices where we don Class C PPE, set up our staging areas tents and simulate decontaminating people. Our Emergency Room Disaster Committee offers tabletop exercises where all departments work together on a mock disaster using established protocols.
I thoroughly enjoy these activities. It is fascinating being exposed to scenarios that I’d never even considered from such a diverse team of professionals. Being involved has given me the opportunity to meet our Radiation Safety Officer, scientists from the lab, blood bank coordinators and many other people I do not normally work with.
Understanding each other’s roles helps us work together cohesively in emergency situations. I have not experienced a disaster situation, but I do know where to report and that my team will be ready to assist those in need.
You as a pharmacy technician can be an asset to your institution and the general public during emergency situations. I encourage you to learn more about and become involved with disaster planning at your own practice and in your community.
- Become familiar with and help maintain your pharmacy’s emergency supplies.
- Take advantage of training offered by your employer.
- Develop a personal plan for your family and household.
In addition to expanding your professional network and elevating your own level of technician practice, these preparations are sure to help you be calmer, more informed and more organized if you are faced with an emergency.