What Do Pharmacy Technicians Do?

The health care industry relies heavily on cooperation among medical professionals. It takes a number of people working together to make sure patients get the treatment they need after an illness or accident. The role of a pharmacy technician is to assist a licensed pharmacist in preparing medications for customers. They collect the information the pharmacist needs, help manage medication distribution, and provide drug information or education to customers at the pharmacy. For example, pharmacy technicians review a doctor's prescription order for completeness and accuracy. They are also responsible for helping to make sure the pharmacy is complying with all applicable federal, state, and local laws regarding the distribution of prescription medication.

Approximately 75 percent of all pharmacy technicians work in a retail pharmacy setting. However, pharmacy technicians are also employed at hospitals, home-care pharmacies, mail-order pharmacies, and community pharmacies. Pharmacy technicians are expected to be flexible in their working hours, since many pharmacy locations are open nights, weekends, and holidays. They must have excellent communication skills, since they often work with a culturally diverse group of people and have access to information that is of a sensitive nature.

The position of pharmacy technician is often confused with a pharmacy aide. However, there is an important distinction between these two jobs. Pharmacy aides cannot prepare prescriptions or mix medications. They perform clerical and administrative duties, such as answering phones or stocking shelves. While pharmacy aides are typically trained by their employer, pharmacy technicians must obtain formal certification after completing a postsecondary education program.

Pharmacy Technician Industry Facts

When working as a pharmacy technician, no two days are exactly the same. Since the majority of pharmacy technicians are employed in a retail setting, rotating shifts are common. You may work nights, weekends, or holidays and you won't always be working with the same group of pharmacy aides and pharmacists. Some of your coworkers, especially those with young children at home, may be employed on a part-time basis.

The typical work environment of a pharmacy technician is organized, clean, and well ventilated. However, it is important to keep in mind that pharmacy technicians are expected to be able to spend many hours on their feet. They must also be able to lift heavy boxes and retrieve needed supplies from high shelves.

Regardless of where they are employed, pharmacy technicians must be able to work independently. They are supervised by licensed pharmacists, but must be able to exercise strong decision-making skills in order to perform their job duties. Attention to detail and a sense of responsibility are critical, since mistakes in a patient's medication could have disastrous consequences.

The primary role of a pharmacy technician is to collect and organize information the licensed pharmacist on duty must have in order to properly serve his or her patients. This requires the pharmacy technician to be able to use medical terms correctly and be familiar with all of the symbols and abbreviations that are used in a prescription order. Pharmacy technicians are often asked to screen a doctor's prescription orders for completeness and accuracy. They must be able to identify problems caused by side effects of a medication or potentially dangerous drug interactions.

Pharmacy technicians also develop and manage the distribution of prescription medication. This includes preparing prescriptions, mixing creams or ointments, counting tablets, and labeling medication bottles. The pharmacy technician must understand how to perform the needed mathematical calculations to determine the correct dose of the medication or the proper strength of a particular solution. Pharmacy technicians are also required to understand how to use proper aseptic technique to ensure that medications are prepared in a sterile environment.

During the course of the day, a pharmacy technician is likely to come into contact with people from a variety of social, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Some of these people may be in pain from their illness or injury, so sensitivity to others is a key component of being a successful pharmacy technician. It is also important for a pharmacy technician to understand how to respect patient confidentiality. Having access to medical records for a customer allows a pharmacy technician to see a great of information that is of a sensitive nature.

If a pharmacy technician works in a small pharmacy that does not employ pharmacy aides, job may include duties such as operating the cash register, answering phones, preparing insurance claim forms, taking inventory, or stocking shelves.

After gaining experience in the field, a pharmacy technician may develop a particular specialty. For example, hospitals and other larger health care settings have opportunities for chemotherapy technicians and nuclear pharmacy technicians.

Last Updated: 05/12/2014