Pharmacy technician regulation and professionalism
: a discourse analytic study

  • Carol Nairn

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: This research explored regulation and professionalism with respect to the current state of professional practice for hospital pharmacy technicians. Since July 2011 pharmacy technicians must register with the General Pharmaceutical Council in order to practise. An acknowledged benefit of registration is professional recognition; however there is a lack of published research about pharmacy technicians’ professionalism with no study found that offers a holistic exploration post mandatory registration.
Method: This study utilised a broad discourse analytic approach to examine how pharmacy practitioners talk about the pharmacy technician role, regulation and professionalism, being sensitive to the content of these accounts but also the ways in which they are constructed and the varying rhetorical effects and power. The sociology of the professions provided the theoretical background for this study to examine the notion of professionalism in modern healthcare and whether or not pharmacy technicians are enabled to undertake the professional practice for which they are now accountable. Data were gathered through interviews with pharmacy technicians, pharmacists and Directors of Pharmacy, which were digitally recorded and transcribed prior to discourse analysis.
Findings: The findings illuminate gaps in the professional socialisation of pharmacy technicians related to 1) Policy: a lack of appropriate conditions and opportunities for pharmacy technicians to demonstrate professional practice and contribute to current policy implementation, 2) Practice: pharmacy technicians do not have the supportive infrastructure to enable their own professional practice or carry out research, and 3) Education and Training: current qualifications are traditionalistic and not fit for purpose.
Discussion: Recommendations are made in relation to these three concerns, including: development of pharmacy technician practice to take responsibility for the supply chain of medicines; review organisational structures, roles and discourses to enable this clear division of labour; the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK promotes the development of a ‘Scope of Professional Practice for Pharmacy Technicians’ to support practice development and clarify accountabilities, and improves promotion of pharmacy technician research activity; and finally, review the content and level of pharmacy technician pre- and post-registration qualifications to address identified gaps and to support a structured career pathway. Findings from this study have already been transferred into practice in terms of: development of national recruitment guidance; establishment of a ‘Professionalism Programme’ for all local pharmacy staff; development of terms of reference for a local pharmacy technician professional forum to enable professional development and leadership; and, the initiation of discussions to develop a national pharmacy technician professional forum in Scotland.
Date of AwardApr 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Abertay University
SupervisorJames Moir (Supervisor)


  • Pharmacy technician
  • Profession
  • Regulation
  • Role
  • Discourse analysis

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