Monday, September 21, 2009

Why the PTCB is A Joke

In July 2005 I became a certified technician. I'll never forget test day, having to leave at 4:30 AM in order to make the test site in time for the 7AM start. Seeing hoards of middle aged women with literally 20 pencils and five calculators.

The test was supposed to take around two hours or so if I remember correctly. I remember breezing through it in about a half hour seeing as I had already had four years of experience at that point. What I do remember is the test being challenging in certain areas, especially the questions regarding drugs. I remember a good deal was based on hospital protocol and there were only a few math based questions.

When I passed, it was one of the largest achievements I had made at that point in my life.

Today, though, it seems like any dimwit can earn certification from the PTCB. About a year ago a new employee, whom had never worked in a pharmacy before and even admitted to not know what hydrocodone was the day before the test, decided to take the PTCE after working for us for a week.

I laughed it off thinking, there's no way in hell he'll pass that.

But he did.

And I started reading more about what the test had become in the years since I took mine. I found out that it was now computer based and stopped once you correctly answered enough questions. And you could take it locally now which woulda been a helluva lot nicer than getting up at 4 in the morning.

Yet I keep reading again and again about how people are becoming certified when they know nothing about pharmacy. Most read through one of the review books in a week and go take the test and then pass.

First I should mention I do not support the 'tech schools' out there that train people for this job. I think its a waste of money personally because you're essentially paying to learn on the job training, but whatever that's an argument for another post.

However I do not think it's right that someone can earn this designation and not know a damn thing about pharmacy. From what I have gathered the test has become more math based and the questions regarding drugs are insanely easy. Which makes sense when I read about some of the yahoos that are now certified.

What happened to the honor it was to carry the title C.PhT after your name? It used to be that when we hired someone and they were certified, you knew that they knew their shit. Now it doesn't mean a damn thing as they can be as big of an imbecile as any other green tech.

It just seems like there should be some sort of reform here ya know? Maybe actually challenge people a bit? Am I the only one who's noticed this?

19 comments:

John Woolman said...

Just for fun i had a look at one or two of the practice test websites e.g. http://www.testprepreview.com/ptcb_practice.htm

I wasn't over impressed. There was bad grammar, misspellings, ("Dieuretics" FFS), non specific answer choices ("congestion" - Congestion of what YDF?), inappropriate abbreviations ("H") and suggested answers that are just plain wrong. (So valproate doesn't cause liver damage?)

Message - Stick to the practice tests on the PTCB web site.

Anonymous said...

I took the tech test in 1998. It was the 2nd time the tests were offered if I remember correctly. That test was a bitch! The questions were basically taken right off the Pharmicist's exams ( as my PIC told me the next day as we discussed it) I passed, and felt SOOO good about it. I had only been working full time in the pharmacy for about a year, but even the 5+ year techs were sweating bullets before this test.

Fast forward to about 2 years ago. I had been on disability from work ( Breast Cancer) and somehow in the chaos let my certification lapse. Had to take that test again. This time it was soooo easy that I literally was shocked. Not that I had learned so much more- the questions were so "dumbed-down" as to be rediculous! And like you, I saw many people that wouldn't know what HCTZ was pass.

Long story short- Your so right. And I don't know with everything else that is going so wrong in pharmacy today if this would even be concidered a priority. But it sure as heck should be.

KCflacpht

Frantic Pharmacist said...

I think you're right, the certification doesn't seem to mean a lot anymore, and it certainly doesn't turn a bad tech into a good one. I have always thought they should have a different test for retail vs. hospital. And what is this stuff about stopping the test once you've answered enough questions correctly?? I just heard of this from someone taking her RN LICENSING exam!! WTF??

Anonymous said...

As of January 2010, In Flordia where I live, every Pharmacy Technician is required by law to register with the state in order to continue working as a Pharmacy Technician. In order to register you have to have one of the following (1) have worked over 1500 hours in a pharmacy (2)be certified from a nationally accredited program or (3) take a required 6 month program sponsered by the state. Has any one else heard about this? I think it's pretty good in that, now just not ANYONE can become a cpht overnight which is kind of cool. However in regrads to the PCTB, it was extremely ridiculous. What is an antibiotic? (a) ativan (b) fluconazole (c)adriamycin (d)zithromycin... come on....

Anonymous said...

hahahah oh my god.... after writing Adriamycin i just saw I wrote Zithromycin lololol....ZITHROMAX!!!

Pharmer Jane said...

More than one of my technicians comes across as dumb as a post. Two of the worst offenders, I have found out, are certified. I was shocked. That test was crazy hard when I took it ten years ago to get certified; seeing who can pass it now, it must be rather less difficult. Do you think the PTCB is making it "easier" because more states are requiring certification for staff to work in pharmacies? Would there be a workforce shortage if the PTCB test was still difficult?

Anonymous said...

Pharmer Jane- You and I must have taken the test at about the same time- it was significantly more difficult back then! Now it's just so easy it's truly pathetic. I can tell you that fully 3/4ths of the people who take it now would not have passed had they taken it "back in the day".

Anonymous- I'm in Fla too. And if all these people have to do is pass the PTCB exam ( as stated in #2 of the state's requirements) we're still no better off than we are now.

KCflacpht

Pharmacy Schools said...

It was just as easy as the CA department of real estate exam. I studied for both for a few days, and I felt like I overstudied for both!

Anonymous said...

First of all, you may be correct in the fact that PTCB has changed the difficulty level of the test, but what exactly do expect a tech to know making on average $9.00 a an hour when a pharmacist makes $40-$60 an hour. In my experience, the tech does all the work and the pharm checks it. Thats all good and I understand the knowledge thing, but you can't expect the tech to be as knowledgeble as a pharmacist, hence why they get paid so much less, resulting in a less difficult test. duh...

Ilona said...

You guys keep saying the PTCB is too easy. Well, why shouldn't it be? I mean have you seen the wages that the technicians make compared to the pharmacist? I mean it is ridiculous. The least thing they can do is make that damn thing easy to pass.

pharmgirl said...

I agree that tech's should know some things comming into the field but not everything. Thats why you get on the job training and paid less than pharmacist. Plus techs are not liable for mistakes by law. Therefore when that changes the test should change. I'm not saying that as a tech you shouldn't want to grow and learn as much as you can in the field. I believe the best tech's pursue knowledge on a regular basis but I agree the test shouldn't be super difficult until state policy/ salaries of technicians change.

Michelle said...

I took the PTCE three days ago, following a cert program at the local comm. college (continuing with associate program next semester). I can only comment on Pearson Vue Professional Testing Ctr - the exam has a set number of questions and it does NOT stop once a candidate answers a sufficient number of questions correctly. The exam is restructured through a nationwide practice analysis study, which is conducted every five years and is findings can be read at ptcb.org. Obviously not every exam is identical, but I believe mine had a fairly equal representation of required material. Even if people somehow manage to pass without the necessary fundamental knowledge, I would hope those "cracks" would become apparent in the real world and employment terminated. IMHO, most of my fellow posters on this site sound extremely bitter and reminiscent of parents complaining about "walking 5 miles to school, in the snow, uphill both ways". Its as if the hard work that I, and others like me, have dedicated to this profession does not compare. I know my stuff and hate complete strangers basically saying their certification supersedes mine based on examination not on my intelligence. Shame on you guys ...and although it obviously doesn't count in your opinions, I passed! :)

Michelle said...

Regardless of how much money you make, ESPECIALLY when dealing with public health/safety, you have to know what you are doing and not fake your way through examination. A pharmacist isn't going to tolerate second rate work/knowledge, and either way, the PTCE isn't based on wages. When you say things like "why shouldn't it be easy", it demeans others who don't want to be looked upon as half-wit slackers and take pride in ourselves and what we've accomplished.

Michelle said...

And a question for Phathead:
Correct me if I misread your original rant, but what would you be satisfied with in regards to career prep?? You don't want tech school education, or someone with a review manual. And just so you know, I am in full agreement on the later. Everyone has to start somewhere...you didn't wake-up one morning, having been blessed overnight with the key to the pharmacology castle and all the worldly knowledge held within. :)

Anonymous said...

According to the PTCB, the exam had a higher pass rate(ranging from 78%-80%) from 1995-2005...perhaps the difficulty has increased or remained unchanged, but you are looking at it differently considering your years of experience.

Phathead said...

I know the material on the exam has changed because I have been helping people study for it since I first took it. Now, more often than not, the exam is based around simple conversions or rather straight forward questions.

When I took the exam, even with my experience at that point, I found some of the questions difficult. It was quite varied and really tested a range of qualities. It seems to the focus is much more narrow than it used to be.

Donald white said...

Taking all these comments in. I'm studying right now for the exam. I'm very excited for the opportunity. Any tips or anything are welcomed just passed my ptec prep course. Now I'm narrowing material down to study for the exam. Can anyone list what/how I should go about it.

Lesli Santana said...

Hi I am pharmacy techician I have work in a pharmacy for three years now and I belive that is not the ptcb test or any other curse what it make you a good pharmcy tech. The hard work the day to day training and the interest of the person to learn something every day its what made a good pharmacy technician. By the way maybe the test look easy to you now because you have learn everything before

Anonymous said...

im just now passing through my classes here at job corps. so far so good. its not as if pharm tech was ever really a difficult job and we now are expected to know more than the old school pharm techs or "clerks" as they are now referred to. if you can perform math at an eighth grade level and can memorize some common sense laws and everyday drugs.... your nationally certified. keep in mind some states require no certification at all.... many do not recognize ptcb.so cool your jets lamin