Pharmacy Technician Job Description
Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists prepare prescriptions and handle customers. They find employment in settings in which medications are dispensed, including hospitals, drug stores, and retail stores that host pharmacies. Most pharmacy techs work full-time. Some work nights or weekends because many places stay open to provide constant or extended service. The environment oftentimes can be fast-paced with demands coming from various directions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 402,500 people in the U.S. worked as pharmacy technicians in 2016. This figure is projected to jump to 450,100 by 2026, a 12 percent increase. One of the main reasons for this growth is the aging of baby boomers, who likely will need more prescriptions as they get older. The BLS also cites higher rates of chronic diseases among all age groups and advances in pharmaceutical research as contributing factors.
Pharmacy Technician Duties and Responsibilities
Pharmacy technicians perform under the guidance of registered pharmacists. Their assistance is vital in keeping operations moving along. Looking at job ads, employers commonly expect pharmacy technicians to be involved with the following:
Pharmacies must maintain a sufficient stock to handle the needs of those seeking medications. Pharmacy techs keep an eye on levels, order as needed, expedite receipt in critical situations, borrow from other facilities, and verify deliveries.
By taking care of many of the other tasks involved when people obtain prescriptions, Pharmacy technicians free up pharmacists to concentrate on the healthcare aspect. Such jobs might include answering phones, finding orders when people come to pick them up in the store or at the drive-through, entering patient information into the computer system, ringing up purchases, and dealing with insurance. They also may answer basic questions or serve as a go-between when a customer requires detailed information from the pharmacist. If their employer offers a rewards program or an automated refill option, pharmacy technicians may explain such things to the customer.
As part of their duties, pharmacy technicians may be called upon to count out tablets, measure liquids, compound medications, prepare IVs, put labeling on medicines, print out reference information, verify information with the prescribing physician, fax doctors about refill requests, package filled prescriptions, and field requests from physicians’ offices.
Places that dispense medications must abide by numerous federal regulations. Pharmacy technicians assist with such compliance, which may include locking up certain medicines, storing items in the correct containers and temperatures, checking ID, sanitizing equipment, promptly removing drugs that have been recalled, and disposing of out-of-date drugs in the required way.
Pharmacy Technician Skills
Because they interact with others so often, pharmacy technicians should possess good interpersonal skills. They also need to be very detail-oriented since medication errors can be serious. Other good skills for pharmacy technicians to have include:
- Listening actively to address customer concerns
- Prioritizing to get the most critical tasks completed first
- Respecting the privacy of patients and keeping information confidential
- Handling numbers, fractions, and calculations with ease
- Following directions exactly as given by the pharmacist in charge
- Exhibiting patience during stressful situations, such as dealing with sick people or insurance errors
Pharmacy Technician Tools of the trade
As they go about their job, pharmacy technicians frequently encounter the following things:
- Prescription medications – drugs and other medical items that require approval from a doctor before being given to a patient
- Controlled substances – drugs regulated by the government because of their potential for abuse or harmful side effects
- OTC medications –medicines that patrons can buy over the counter without approval from a medical practitioner
- Prescription – a written out or digitally submitted request by a physician that states the exact medication and dosage to dispense to a patient
- Vials, bottles, and containers – storage units for individual prescriptions
- Tablet-counting machine – device with a vibrating plate that drops pills until the requested amount is complete
- Counting tray and spatula – a surface on which pills are poured and then moved via spatula to a chute for transfer into a container
- Computers – to monitor inventory, correspond with insurance companies, create labels, enter patient data, and keep records
- Autoclave – a device that sterilizes pharmacy equipment and tools using high-pressure steam
Pharmacy Technician Education and Training
Aspiring pharmacy technicians first need to obtain a high school diploma. At that point, many enroll in specialized programs at vocational or community colleges for 6 to 24 months to earn a certificate or an associate’s degree. (Some retail pharmacies offer their own training programs.) Coursework covers areas such as terminology, medication handling, recordkeeping, prescription drug regulations, and measurements. Completing an internship at a pharmacy to gain hands-on experience is common. Certification by the National Healthcareer Association or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board increases job prospects and is mandatory in some states.
Pharmacy Technician Salary
The median annual salary for pharmacy technicians is $30,920. Pharmacy technicians in the 10th percentile earn about $21,370 a year, and the highest paid make in excess of $45,700 a year. Pharmacy technicians in Washington, Alaska, and North Dakota make the highest median salaries in the U.S. – $42,210, $39,760, and $37,770, respectively.
Pharmacy Technician Resources
Think you might make a good pharmacy technician? Learn all you can about the career by checking out these sources:
Mosby’s Pharmacy Technician: Principles and Practice – This “approachable”’ text includes a variety of photos, real-world examples, insights, and critical thinking exercises to aid readers on their journey to become pharmacy technicians.
American Association of Pharmacy Technicians – This professional group promotes pharmacy technicians as a vital part of the healthcare system and offers members opportunities such as networking events and continuing education recommendations.
National Pharmacy Technician Association – Another organization dedicated to helping pharmacy technicians reach their full potential, its website covers everything from industry trends to career advancement.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board – Get specifics on certification and loads of information on the field in general at the website of this organization dedicated to promoting medication safety through proper training of the people who dispense it.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board LinkedIn Group – Still have questions? Chances are someone among this community’s 25,000 members will be able to help.
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