It doesn’t add up! Calculations in the modern pharmacy technician curriculum

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstractpeer-review


Introduction: Current teaching of calculations to pre-registration pharmacy technicians covers a variety of areas, including dose calculations, conversions, molarity, percentages, displacement values and dilutions. Within the University of East Anglia course these are taught over 2 years with 5 exams spread throughout the course. The extent of how much each calculation is used in practice is unknown. Currently the only educational requirement for pharmacy technicians relating to calculations is to ‘‘Accurately perform pharmaceutical calculations to ensure the safety of people’’ 1. This is open to interpretation and there is no definitive list of what types of calculations pharmacy technicians are expected to carry out and therefore should be taught.

Aim: Identify the types of calculations that pharmacy technicians undertake in practice and compare this to the types of calculation currently taught on the pre-registration training course for pharmacy technicians.

Methods: An online survey was distributed via a gatekeeper (after ethical approval, ref ETH2122-1122) to pre-registration pharmacy technicians enrolled on the UEA training programme in their second year, and their educational supervisors who are registered pharmacy technicians. Consenting responders were asked how often they use a variety of calculations in daily practice ranging from ‘never used’ to ‘use every day’. Calculation examples included quantities and volumes to supply, unit conversions, infusion rates, ingredient amounts (using formulae, percentages and displacement values) and molarity. Data collected were analysed using descriptive statistics via the online JISC survey platform.

Results: 51 responses were received: 45% pharmacy technicians and 55% pre-registration pharmacy technicians. Responders were from a variety of pharmacy settings: 52.2 % hospital, 17.4% community and the remaining split between mental health, general practice, health in justice, care homes, education and Primary Care Networks. All calculations had been used in practice but to varying degrees of regularity. More common types were: calculating the quantity to supply (100% having used), calculating a dose by volume of liquid (98.1%) and converting dosage units (98.1%). 16 out of 28 calculation types were ‘never used’ by over 50% of responders. The most rarely used being: calculating the molarity of a solution (9.8%), calculating the amount of ingredient to make a set molarity (6.9%), and using displacement values to calculate the base needed for suppositories (6.9%).

Discussion/Conclusion: The results show that there is disparity between what calculations are taught and what calculations are used by pharmacy technicians in practice. Potential improvements to the curriculum could be to remove some calculations that are less frequently used, focussing more upon commonly used calculations. Removal of any calculations from the curriculum however could result in learners being unable to effectively undertake these if they were to come across the calculation in practice. More research is needed into the importance of learning these calculations, the consequence of removing them from initial curriculums and if there is a need to teach these as further learning for qualified pharmacy technicians.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)ii50-ii51
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmacy Practice
Issue numberS2
Early online date30 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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