Pharmacy Technician Job Description

A Pharmacy Technician’s Job Description

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A pharmacy technician will work alongside licensed pharmacists to provide medicines and other health care needs to patients. They will help to prepare prescribed medications, interact with patients and perform many administrative tasks. Some of their tasks will mirror those of the pharmacist, though any medications prepared by a pharmacy tech will be checked by the pharmacist before being dispensed to a patient. In addition, a pharmacy technician will refer any questions regarding drug information, health matters or prescriptions to the pharmacist.

Job Outlook

Pharmacy technician, Pharmacy

Pharmacy technician, Pharmacy—Army Medicine (Flickr.com)

As the number of middle aged and elderly people increases, the demand for prescription drugs rises, giving way to a rapidly growing job market for certified pharmacy technicians. In fact, the number of employment opportunities for pharmacy technicians is projected to grow by 32 percent by 2020.

More and more, pharmacy techs are taking on many of the administrative duties that were previously performed by pharmacy aides – jobs like answering phones, stocking shelves and taking inventory. In many cases, pharmacy techs are even taking on routine responsibilities that were previously handled solely by pharmacists.

Certain factors have affected the job market somewhat. Drug dispensing machines cut out a lot of the routine job of pill counting – something that is typically the responsibility of a pharmacy tech – though these machines are used only for the most common medications. In addition, many states have instated laws legislating the maximum number of techs who can safely work under one pharmacist. These two factors have had a slight impact on the job market; however, their effect on employment is minimal overall.

A Day in the Life of a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians typically work in one of two settings: in retail or in a hospital. Whichever area you choose to pursue, be prepared for a fast-paced (and often stressful) environment.

In retail, you’ll be called upon to work directly with customers as they come in to have their prescriptions filled. You will receive prescriptions by phone, fax or via online orders in addition to walk-in patients. You will also often need to handle insurance issues as customers come in to pick up medications.

Pharmacy techs working in hospitals also have a unique set of tasks, dealing less with individual patients and more with the doctors and health care professionals. When a doctor needs a certain prescription filled or a surgeon needs an IV bag prepared, he’ll call down to the pharmacy for it. As the pharmacy tech, it will be your responsibility to take the order and prepare the prescription or admixture accurately and have it checked by the pharmacist before sending it off. You will also be responsible at times for filling medication carts with drugs for hospitalized patients and dropping them off on the various patients’ floors.

Though the settings vary and each situation will present its own unique challenges, many of your routine duties will remain the same in either scenario. You will be responsible for stocking shelves with medications and ordering supplies as instructed by the pharmacist. You will count tablets, fill and label bottles and pre-package medications. You may be asked to help with compounding (measuring and mixing) ingredients for creams and ointments.

In some cases (depending on your skill level), you may even be called upon to prepare IV admixtures as we mentioned above. IV admixtures often require a higher level of training, however, as the implications of any error can be much more serious. Since the medication is administered directly into the bloodstream, the drug mixture needs to be extremely accurate and you will need to take great care that everything is kept sterile.

As a pharmacy tech, you will sometimes be asked questions by patients who come in to have prescriptions filled. You may know the answer in some cases, however, it is your job to refer any health or medicine related questions to the pharmacist.

An aspect that many pharmacy techs like about the profession is the flexibility and versatility both in where you can work and the hours you can work. As mentioned, both retail and hospital settings are available, including traditional pharmacies and hospitals, as well as nursing homes, larger doctors’ offices, and even mail-order or online pharmacies.

Some employers will offer regular 9-5 hours, whereas others offer 24-hour service, opening up a far greater range of shifts. Of course, when you’re first starting out, you may not be able to pick your hours, but as you increase in seniority, you’ll often have greater control over when you work.

Some Handy Skills

Since you’ll be working with people all day – including patients, coworkers and other health care professionals – you’ll need strong customer service and team working skills. You’ll need to be a good listener and have patience in handling difficult patients or demanding doctors.

You’ll need strong math, spelling and reading skills to decipher and accurately fill prescriptions. You will need to be observant, organized and highly responsible. Most of all, you will need to be extremely precise and detail-oriented, as a small mistake could be a matter of life or death.

Further Opportunities

As you gain experience and certification, you’ll have opportunities to be promoted to supervisory positions. You’ll be responsible for training and mentoring newer or less experienced pharmacy technicians.

You may also choose to branch into a specialty position such as chemo therapy or nuclear pharmacy. Some pharmacy techs even choose to go into sales, as they have a strong knowledge of the world of pharmaceuticals and can provide a wealth of knowledge to their clients.

Some pharmacy techs eventually go back to school to become Pharmacists. Though this does require several years of training, a degree in pharmacy will provide far greater opportunities for advancement and a much higher pay grade.