What is a Pharmacy Technician?
A pharmacy technician is a person who assists a pharmacist. The world of medicine is a complex place. While many modern medicines work wonders in patients, they can be highly dangerous and lethal if not distributed to them correctly. The pharmacist is the person ultimately responsible for ensuring the safe distribution of medications and the pharmacy technician is the one who does the routine work to help make this happen.
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Pharmacy Technicians at a Glance
Other Job Titles: Certified Pharmacy Technician, Pharmaceutical Care Associate, Pharmacy Assistant
Salary Range*: $20,000 to $42,000; $30,000 average; $29,000 median
Education/Training Required: Approved pharmacy technician on-the-job training, 2-6 month certificate program, or 2-year associate degree program
Desired Skills/Aptitude: mathematical, computers, chemistry, anatomy, customer communication skills
Certification/Licensing: Depends on the state however most require certification
Locations with Best Opportunities: Washington, California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Alaska
Employment Outlook: Excellent
Opportunities for Advancement: Some pharmacy technicians go on to complete 6-years of college to become pharmacists.
What a Pharmacy Technician Does
The duties of a pharmacy technician involve helping the pharmacist who is ultimately responsible for the safe and accurate distribution of prescription medication. Typical duties of the technician are those related to the following areas:
- Filling prescriptions
- Customer service
- Anything not requiring judgment by a pharmacist
Filling prescriptions involves reading what is prescribed and putting them in the appropriate containers along with all required labeling. A technician will have to count, weigh, pour, measure, and mix the different forms of medication according to what is specified in the doctor’s prescription.
Accurately filling and verifying a prescription are also related to safety. The technician must label the prescriptions with any warnings and make sure that the patient is advised of any possible side-effects.
Since the pharmacy technician typically has interaction with patient customers, this person must be customer-service oriented. This involves not only receiving the customer request but also being able to deal with any problems or complaints.
Tools of the Trade
The tools of a pharmacy technician are fairly common among different pharmacy outlets and include:
- Tablet counters
- Sterile solution transferring devices
- Sterilizing equipment
- Label printers
Most pharmacies also need point-of-sale equipment to collect payment from customers. Computer equipment is necessary so that the pharmacy technician can access networks where patient health insurance information can be retrieved. Computers are also used to initiate label printing and access databases to print information about medications to give to customers.
Pharmacy technicians can work in several areas such as:
- Grocery/general merchandise store pharmacies
- Drug stores
- Mail order pharmacies
- Pharmaceutical manufacturers
- Assisted living/nursing facilities
- Home health care services
The job of a technician usually is in an indoor environment. Pharmacies are usually located in a small corner of a retail or general merchandise store with limited space for movement. In hospitals, pharmacy technicians may be called to prepare IV medications for inpatients. The same would apply for those working in assisted living or nursing facilities. Those involved with home health care services probably have the most variance in workplace conditions.
The Professional Life of a Pharmacy Technician
Although a typical workday for the pharmacy technician can be stressful, it can also be rewarding because you are helping people. The people whom you help are those who are ill and can oftentimes be rude or angry because of their ailment. Their anger might stem from their illness or the fact that their insurance (if they have insurance) will only cover a fraction of the medication’s cost. Thus, these same people (who are customers) may direct their anger or rudeness at you since you are the technician at the counter.
However, a good pharmacy technician is able to communicate with just about everyone effectively. Plus, the technician enjoys a sense of accomplishment when a customer’s day is turned around because you filled that person’s prescription correctly, handled an insurance hassle for the person, or just chatted a little.
The typical workday for the technician also goes by quickly because pharmacies are busy places. It is not uncommon to have several people waiting at a counter while trying to accurately fill a prescription.
The employment outlook is good for this career because of the growing age of the population in general. If this is a job that interests you then find out what is required to enter into the field and begin preparing.
*Salary Source: BLS May 2012